Seattle announces new funding for affordable housing near transit

Mayor Ed Murray submitted legislation to the City Council this week to invest an additional $1 million in land acquisition near transit hubs for affordable housing in Seattle. The Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) fund creates a regional pool of resources that will be used to secure land near existing or planned high-capacity transit.

“Supporting an equitable and affordable Seattle means creating housing options near transit that working families can afford,” said Murray. “We must make the smart investment now to acquire land near transit centers, so we can locate convenient, affordable housing as our community grows.”

Implementing the REDI fund is one of the many recommendations made by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee last summer, and exemplifies Seattle’s commitment to strong regional partnerships in housing affordability issues.

“Aside from housing, transportation is a family’s greatest expense,” stated Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who promoted the allocation of City dollars for the REDI fund in the 2015 budget cycle. “Investing early on in affordable housing options near transit centers ensures we are developing our city equitably into the future.”

The idea for the REDI fund emerged from a 3-year regional planning effort, Growing Transit Communities, which concluded in 2013. The City Council authorized the $1 million in the 2015 budget and asked the Mayor and the Office of Housing to develop a Regional Compact with King County, the State of Washington, and other regional public and private partners to govern expenditure of the fund. A total of $21 million will be invested in the fund – $5 million from public sources and $16 million from private and other sources.

“Seattle, like many metropolitan areas across the country, recognizes that housing affordability is a regional issue as much as a local one,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “Both Denver and San Francisco have created similar tools to acquire land for affordable housing, and have shown that this works.”

The City Council PLUS Committee will discuss the REDI fund on Dec. 1, with a vote scheduled for Dec.15.

Murray praises passage of landmark housing legislation

Mayor Ed Murray today congratulated the City Council on passage of the Grand Bargain that will support the construction of thousands of new affordable homes in neighborhoods across Seattle through a mandatory contribution to affordable housing on new commercial construction and multi-family residential developments:

“Affordable housing advocates and the development community came together this year to craft an unprecedented agreement to build new affordable homes across Seattle. The Council has acted swiftly and decisively to adopt this recommendation to make Seattle a more livable city. A special thanks to Councilmember Mike O’Brien, whose leadership was instrumental in reaching this milestone.

“With this vote today, Seattle neighborhoods will become more sustainable, socially inclusive and economically diverse. For the first time, private developers will build or contribute to affordable housing with every new apartment building or office building. More families and individuals will be able to afford to live in walkable communities close to transit or near where they work. We are a big step closer to our goal that everyone who works in Seattle can afford to live in Seattle.”

Sugimura named interim director of Office of Planning and Community Development

Today Mayor Ed Murray named Diane Sugimura, the current director of the Department of Planning and Development, interim director of the new Office of Planning and Community Development.

In his 2016 budget, the mayor is proposing to coordinate strategic planning functions across city departments in one single entity, OPCD, to better manage planning and investments in a rapidly growing Seattle.

“We must seize this opportunity to carefully plan the growth of Seattle to include the amenities that support our livable and vibrant community,” said Murray. “After nearly four decades of service to the people of Seattle, I have convinced Diane to stay a few more months so that we have steady leadership as we launch this new planning agency. I hope to nominate a new director in the first few months of 2016.”

OPCD will elevate the City’s planning functions to manage Seattle’s construction boom and job growth, while also coordinating public investments in transportation, parks and housing. This new office will coordinate the work of planners in a range of subjects across city departments.

“Over the past several months, I have worked closely with the mayor to create this new office and help fulfill the vision for responding to growth in an equitable and integrated way,” said Sugimura. “We will be better coordinated in how we grow and how we invest. I’m looking forward to helping get this office off the ground until the new director arrives.”

Over the last two decades, the City has successfully channeled new housing into urban villages to create planned density. Nearly 75 percent of growth has been focused into Seattle’s Urban Centers and Urban Villages.

Seattle is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, adding 70,000 residents and 63,000 jobs in the past five years. The city is expected to be home to another 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs by 2035.

FAQ for New Office of Planning and Community Development


The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) is a new office that will support the Mayor’s vision of building thriving communities with a mix of amenities, open space, transportation, utilities, affordable housing, and economic opportunity. This new office will work across our City departments to assess community needs, prioritize resources, develop a vision for how our neighborhoods grow and develop, and ensure that we are coordinating and implementing our plans with a cohesive vision. We are excited about the work ahead. This FAQ provides further details about how the new office will improve planning coordination across the City.

FAQ for New Office of Planning and Community Development

  1. Why are we creating a new executive Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD)?

The City of Seattle is growing rapidly. By 2035, Seattle is expected to have 120,000 new residents and 115,000 new jobs. While these factors support our robust economy, some residents are concerned with how growth has affected their neighborhood character; others are concerned about displacement or traffic congestion. As a result, the Mayor recognizes that to build thriving communities with a mix of affordable housing, open space, transportation, utilities, and economic opportunity, the City must have one office that will help truly integrate planning and community development.

While the current Department of Planning and Development (DPD)—to be renamed the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI)—manages site-specific land-use planning and permits new development, current ownership of the City’s vision for comprehensive planning and implementation at the neighborhood and city level often is unclear and distributed across multiple departments. By restructuring how the City plans and then implements those plans, the intent is that City departments will be more strategically aligned to deploy resources to meet current and future needs. Our goal is to accommodate growth while maintaining a high quality of life for all and improving equity in the City.

  1. What are the key divisions of OPCD and what are examples of their work?

OPCD will be comprised of three divisions and two commissions:

  • Director’s Office
  • Research and Analysis Division
  • Planning and Implementation Division
  • Seattle Planning Commission
  • Seattle Design Commission

The Director’s Office will manage OPCD and provide leadership and support in the areas of finance, community engagement, administrative assistance, and communications with Councilmembers, staff, and constituents. The Director will be a member of the Mayor’s Cabinet.

The Research and Analysis Division will inform long-range planning activities. This division will assess best practices research, and assemble and present data on growth, equity and other issues to help guide decision-making and support the planning and investment priorities. This Division will directly inform the work of the Planning and Implementation division. Examples of their work may include:

  • Working closely with capital department liaisons to align long-range capital planning investments;
  • Coordinating with the City’s revenue team, economists, the fiscal and capital manager within CBO, Citywide GIS, and staff liaisons from capital departments to support work on equitable growth analysis and community investment strategies;
  • Establishing criteria for neighborhood priorities;
  • Developing GIS resources to monitor and track citywide capital investments; and
  • Monitoring and updating the Comprehensive Plan and tracking citywide growth and development.

The Planning and Implementation Division will develop, update and implement plans and citywide initiatives, as informed by the Research and Analysis Division. Given its focus on planning and implementation, this division will develop and implement plans, and align City investments to enhance community benefits. Examples of their work may include:

  • Leading cross-departmental efforts supported by staff liaisons from other City departments to develop community plans and citywide initiatives for implementation;
  • Coordinating with the Department of Neighborhoods on outreach and engagement;
  • Implementing key planning recommendations including the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA); and
  • Managing a capital subcabinet to align capital investments.

The Seattle Planning Commission will remain an independent body that continues to advise the Mayor, City Council and City departments on broad planning goals, policies and plans for the physical development of the City.

The Seattle Design Commission will remain an independent body that promotes civic design excellence in capital improvement projects that are located on City land, in the City right-of-way, or constructed with City funds, and will continue to advise the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on the design of capital improvements and other projects and policies that shape Seattle’s public realm.

  1. What are the biggest challenges that this new office will address for the City? How will this new office accomplish this task?

OPCD will support the Mayor’s vision of building thriving communities with a mix of amenities, open space, transportation, utilities, affordable housing, and economic opportunity. To help achieve the Mayor’s vision, there are three core challenges that this new department must address:

  1. Current ownership of the City’s vision for comprehensive planning and implementation at the neighborhood, regional, and city levels is distributed across multiple departments;
  2. Departments have identified that the lack of comprehensive information about where projects are being planned often results in project plans, implementation, and capital investments of departments being misaligned; and
  3. Departments prioritize budgets and resources differently, which can result in competing priorities and less focused use of resources.

The new department will address these core challenges by:

  • Assessing neighborhood needs, and identifying opportunity areas and priorities for neighborhood development and implementation;
  • Ensuring that department priorities are aligned with the Mayor’s priorities and the goals of the comprehensive plan;
  • Ensuring that Council priorities are also in alignment and reflected in policies, regulations and budget resources; and
  • Establishing, vetting and executing implementation plans.
  1. How is this new office different? How will it operate with other departments to ensure that Seattle will plan holistically and meet future needs?

We recognize that in the past, the City of Seattle has reorganized various departments and established new offices to coordinate and strengthen City planning services. While some past efforts helped, they were not sufficient. The current era of unprecedented growth and development only underscores the need for a truly coordinated planning office that will strategically address current and future challenges.

OPCD is a priority for the Mayor; and the team working in OPCD will have the significant task of planning comprehensively to support both current and future residents. The new office must work closely with all City departments to establish strong communication, align work plan priorities, leverage resources, and develop tangible implementation plans that address neighborhood needs. OPCD will work with other City departments to accomplish tasks that include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Assessing neighborhood assets and needs, the impacts of growth, and strategies to support more equitable development;
  • Identifying opportunities and establishing priorities for community development;
  • Focusing on implementation by identifying capital investments, strategic partnerships, assets, and equity issues that are consistent with City objectives;
  • Staffing a Capital Subcabinet to ensure that short- and long-range department plans drive capital investments and leverage city resources effectively to address community needs;
  • Collaborating with the Mayor, City Budget Office (CBO), and Council to ensure that City goals are aligned with proposed priorities and resources; and
  • Ensuring significant planning activities and development projects are reviewed to ensure alignment with community development priorities.

In addition, some examples of interdepartmental coordination work led by OPCD may include:

  • Aggregating data that defines where capital investments are planned by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Seattle City Light (SCL), Seattle Parks and Recreation, and other capital departments to align and leverage strategic priorities;
  • Aligning area plans, Urban Design Frameworks, transportation plans, and community development strategies; and
  • Coordinating with SPU and SCL to plan for adequate infrastructure in water, sewer, drainage and power when new development occurs to ensure sufficient capacity.
  1. What parts of DPD (to be renamed to SDCI) will change? How will different components of DPD work together?

The planning functions that oversee comprehensive planning, area planning, and community development, as well as the Seattle Planning and Design Commissions, will be moved to OPCD and restructured to develop and promote integrated planning and community development. The other core regulatory functions of DPD will remain in DPD, which will be renamed to SDCI.

We also recognize the importance of the close relationship between the divisions currently in DPD. OPCD will continue to work closely with the regulatory component, as it would with all other departments to facilitate and implement comprehensive planning. For example, because the regulatory function manages the permitting process, OPCD will work closely with the regulatory side to help monitor current, future, and potential development to identify and assess capital investment needs in neighborhoods, regulatory changes that may be warranted, etc.

  1. Who are liaisons and what will be their role?

To strengthen interdepartmental coordination, staff from City departments will work with OPCD as subject matter expert “liaisons” to facilitate cross-department coordination. Such staff will remain in their home departments and will work within OPCD to ensure that OPCD has sufficient department expertise and remain coordinated with department priorities. As a result, liaisons may take on the following roles:

  • Work with OPCD planners by providing guidance and recommendations on department priorities, planning efforts, and capital projects to ensure cross-department alignment and project implementation;
  • Serve on a Capital Subcabinet led by OPCD to guide long-range planning and capital investment decisions;
  • Communicate emerging issues and priorities of their home department; and
  • Identify additional subject matter experts within their home departments when necessary.
  1. Who was involved in the creation of OPCD?

As a new office with the primary objective of strengthening coordination across all departments, it was critical to Mayor Murray that multiple departments help to shape and frame the scope and mission of OPCD. In June, Mayor Murray announced an Executive Order directing all City departments to work with the Mayor’s Office, DPD, CBO, and the Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) to develop OPCD.

  1. How will this change be implemented? What is the timeline? What will be the impact on the City budget?

The legislation and budget changes to implement OPCD will be sent to City Council with the 2016 Proposed Budget at the end of September. The total proposed budget for OPCD in 2016 is $7.9 million, all supported by the General Fund. This includes $6.6 million that currently supports existing functions within DPD and $1.3 million in new resources. City Council will review and hold hearings on the proposed budget and legislation as part of their budget deliberations in October and November. The final vote on the 2016 Budget legislation package is expected in late November. All adopted changes will be effective January 1, 2016.

Mayor proposes expansion of affordable housing tax exemption program

Today Mayor Ed Murray introduced legislation that renews and expands the existing Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE). The proposal encourages family-sized units in new buildings and requires more affordable housing to be built. It also expands the MFTE to more areas of Seattle.

“We must ensure that there are affordable homes for people looking to raise families in walkable, mixed-income neighborhoods near transit and job centers,” said Mayor Murray. “Renewing and expanding the MFTE program will construct more affordable housing for working families. This is a smart program that saves families hundreds of dollars each month and brings us closer to creating 20,000 more affordable units in Seattle over the next decade.”

The proposal would increase the supply of affordable units through two specific changes to the current MFTE program. The first would require all new multifamily buildings to designate 25 percent (up from 20 percent) of their units as affordable. The second change would encourage the construction of family-sized units by allowing developers to instead designate 20 percent of their building affordable if they construct four or more two-bedroom units.

The program has achieved significant savings for renters over the years. A tenant, on average, renting a MFTE unit saves $400 a month for a studio, $500 a month for a one-bedroom, and $600 on a two-bedroom unit. For example, a two-bedroom unit costs $2,133 per month at the market rate, while a MFTE unit of the same size costs $1,539 per month.

The proposal would keep income restrictions measured by Area Median Income (AMI) in place. The restriction for residents applying for the MFTE eligible units is 40 percent AMI for a SEDUs, 65 percent AMI for studios, 75 percent for one-bedrooms, 85 percent AMI for two-bedrooms, and 90 percent AMI for a three-bedroom units. Income and rent limits can be found here.

The recommendation comes from the Mayor and City Council’s 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee. The MFTE’s goal is to create affordable rents for families in buildings that otherwise would be unaffordable and market-rate only.

“By expanding the MFTE program, the City is positioned to partner effectively with developers to create affordable homes for the low and modest-wage workers our community relies on,” said Steve Walker, Director of the Seattle Office of Housing. “It is a critical tool that complements the Office of Housing’s other investments in building affordable homes for our lowest-income residents.”

The MFTE program currently in place is set to expire in 2016. The proposal removes the sunset expiration provision, allowing the MFTE to become a permanent program.

“I work at least 60 hours a week in order to provide a great home for my young daughter,” said Clarissa Jarem, a teacher who rents in the University District. “My building participates in this program, giving me the peace of mind to know that my rent isn’t going to go up. I can raise my daughter knowing that I can budget for rent and keep our home for years to come.”

“The existing MFTE program has been an effective tool for creating high-quality affordable housing in some of Seattle’s most desirable neighborhoods,” said Security Properties President Tim Overland. “We’re encouraged by the Mayor’s support of MFTE as a proven program that successfully helps address our city’s affordable housing challenges.”

Currently, the MFTE is available in specific areas in the city. The proposal would expand the MFTE to all zones where multifamily buildings can be built, creating a tool to develop affordable housing where growth is already occurring.

About 40 percent of eligible projects participate in the MFTE today. Many of the households currently living in the MFTE units today earn under $45,000 per year. Currently there are 1,981 affordable units in market-rate buildings in the program, with 1,918 affordable units coming online in the near future.

In July, the HALA advisory committee delivered to the mayor a series of recommendations after 10 months of work. The consensus-driven proposal was crafted by affordable housing advocates, community stakeholders, developers and housing experts appointed by the mayor and Seattle City Council in September of 2014. The text of today’s legislation can be found here.

Mayor announces new actions to expand enrollment in Utility Discount Program

Utility bills will be cut in half for thousands more low-income Seattle families under a new plan to simplify enrollment in the City’s Utility Discount Program (UDP) for those who live in affordable housing or receive nutrition assistance. The average discount for UDP-enrolled customers is more than $800 a year.

Under a new partnership with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC), any individual or family who lives in an affordable apartment with income requirements that also meet UDP income eligibility will be automatically enrolled in the utility discount. Residents will be informed on Sept. 1.

“Housing costs are the largest expense a family faces in our growing city, and utility bills are no small part of that burden,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We have one of the most progressive utility discounts in the country, but the administrative burden has been a barrier for too many. Today, we’re making it simple: if you qualify for subsidized housing or food assistance, we will make it easy to cut your utility bills in half.”

The new partnership is an agreement that the Housing Finance Commission will share the addresses of units that fall into the UDP eligibility range so the occupants can be auto enrolled. Residents’ names or other personal information will not be shared. The income of these renters is already verified annually.

“Rent is only one of the costs of housing—utilities take their toll as well,” said WSHFC Chair Karen Miller. “By sharing this data that we already collect, we can help make housing more affordable for thousands of Seattle residents, and that’s why we’re very excited about this collaboration with the city.”

Up to 5,000 utility customers may benefit from this change. Units that include a federal utility credit would not be eligible.

“We were new to the Seattle area and had very limited income and our apartment manager thoughtfully suggested we apply for the utility discount program,” said Yolanda and Chris, residents in a Bellwether Housing building. “It has been very helpful to us since we were approved last October. We try to be conscientious with our energy usage and indeed went under the City Light estimate of usage. Thank you Seattle and Bellwether for your support in helping us make our transition to becoming Seattleites a little easier.”

To ease the application process for other customers, those already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will no longer be required to provide income verification. Beginning Sept. 1, City staff will now have the ability to verify the customer’s income through SNAP’s Washington Connection database. An estimated 8,500 SNAP recipients in Seattle are eligible to apply for utility discounts through this simplified approach.

The income limit for SNAP is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, which falls within UDP income requirements. The City will conduct random audits of up to 10 percent of enrollees to ensure continued income eligibility.

“All of us at Bellwether are excited to be a part of this partnership. This program will be a great benefit to our residents and will enable everyone who is eligible to auto enroll,” said Doug Daley, executive director of Bellwether Housing. “This will save staff time and – more importantly – will help low-income Seattle families save money each month so they can afford other necessities like food, childcare, clothes and transportation.”

For lower-income customers who qualify, Seattle’s Utility Discount Program offers 50 percent off Public Utilities bills and 60 percent off City Light bills. Nearly 18,000 customers are currently enrolled (an increase of nearly 4,000 since January 2014), but many more are eligible and have not signed up. Murray has set a goal of 28,000 customers enrolled in UDP by the end of 2018.

The income limits for the utility discounts is 70 percent of state median income: $31,000 a year for an individual and $60,000 for a family of four.

“Research has shown decisively that opt-out enrollment for low income programs are far more effective in enrolling eligible households and improving their living standards,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “I have been advocating for the Utility Discount Program to switch to opt-out, and I’m glad we are taking a significant step in that direction.”

“Thanks to the Mayor for making improvements to the Utility Discount Program,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “We are working hand in hand to make the program readily available to all who qualify. Reducing bureaucracy and speeding the application process are very good outcomes.”

“The Utility Discount Program makes Seattle more affordable for low-income households, and the automatic enrollment is a great example of City and State agencies sharing data and working together to improve service delivery,” said Councilmember John Okamoto.

Additional details and information on how to enroll for the Utility Discount Program is available here.

In a related move, Murray will send a draft ordinance to Council so that all the City’s utility assistance programs use the standard of 70 percent of state median income to determine eligibility. Seattle City Light administers another program to help customers pay overdue utility bills, the Emergency Low Income Assistance program. Eligible customers can receive one assistance grant every 12 months. The income limit for the program is 125 percent of the federal poverty level, more restrictive than the City’s other utility assistance programs. After the change, an estimated 200 additional City Light customers who receive shut-off notices each year would be eligible for the grant.

Agreement will bring affordable housing to neighborhoods across Seattle

Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Mike O’Brien today hailed an unprecedented agreement that will lead to at least 50,000 new homes in Seattle, including 20,000 affordable homes, over the next 10 years. Affordable housing will be included in nearly every residential development across Seattle as the rate of construction of new affordable homes triples.

“As Seattle expands and experiences rapid economic growth, more people are chasing a limited supply of housing. We are facing our worst housing affordability crisis in decades,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “My vision is a city where people who work in Seattle can afford to live here. Housing affordability is just one building block to a more equitable city. It goes hand in hand with our efforts on raising the minimum wage, providing preschool education for low-income children, and increasing access to parks and transit. We all share a responsibility in making Seattle affordable. Together, this plan will take us there.”

“Since 2013, the City Council has called for a robust, citywide, mandatory affordable housing program to help ensure that the people who work in this city can afford to live here. The combination of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and a Commercial Linkage Fee will ensure that as Seattle continues to grow, we are creating housing for all incomes,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

At the heart of the action plan to make Seattle affordable is Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, a requirement that developers reserve five to seven percent of units in every new multifamily building to be affordable for residents earning up to 60 percent of King County’s Area Median Income (AMI). Developers could opt to contribute to a fund for off-site construction of the units.

In 2015, 60 percent of AMI is $37,680 for an individual and $53,760 for a family of four. Current market-rate rents in new buildings on Seattle’s Capitol Hill currently average $1,887. In 2015, individuals with incomes of 60 percent of AMI pay $1,008 for income-restricted apartments.

New buildings will have taller height restrictions in existing multifamily residential, mixed-use and commercial zones throughout the city. A substantial portion of the additional development will occur within the existing Urban Centers and Urban Villages, designated two decades ago as the preferred location for denser housing. Only single-family zoning within Urban Villages and along major arterials will be converted to low-rise residential.

A map of the proposal, which was negotiated by Murray, O’Brien, developers and affordable housing advocates, shows where the growth could occur.

The action plan also includes a Commercial Linkage Fee on new commercial development, phased in over three years, to fund additional affordable housing for the lowest-income families. The linkage fee will range from $5 to $14 per square foot, based on the size and location of the commercial development.

When fully implemented, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and the Commercial Linkage Fee will lead to the construction of at least 6,000 new affordable homes over 10 years.

The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee today delivered to the mayor 65 recommendations after 10 months of work. The consensus-driven proposal was crafted by a 28-member committee of affordable housing advocates, community voices, developers and housing experts appointed by the mayor and Seattle City Council last September.

“Many thanks to all the committee members and staff for an extraordinary amount of work over the past 10 months,” said HALA co-chairs David Wertheimer and Faith Li Pettis.  “We were asked by the mayor and council to offer bold, new concepts in our approach to solving the affordable housing crisis. We think this plan fully delivers on that request.  We were able to complete our task because we approached the challenge with a single, shared goal: to make Seattle affordable for all families. None of us got exactly the solution we may have envisioned at the outset, and every one of us had to give a little to reach this landmark agreement. In the end, we are confident that our collaboration will result in thousands of new affordable homes across our city.”

Murray immediately responded to the recommendations with his roadmap to make Seattle affordable, a path to reach his goal of 50,000 new homes, including 20,000 new homes for low- and moderate-income people, over the next decade. Some items in the action plan could be completed this year, while others will require at least two years to implement. In the coming weeks, the mayor will transmit to council a resolution to formalize the elements and framework of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.

Today, about 45,000 households in Seattle spend more than half their incomes on housing. An estimated 2,800 people sleep outside each night in Seattle. Currently, about 700 income-restricted homes are built in Seattle each year.

The increased development capacity across the city will ensure increase supply of housing to respond to growing demand, as Seattle is forecast to add 120,000 residents over the next 20 years.

Single-family zones currently represent 65 percent of all land in Seattle. After the proposed zoning changes, single-family zones will still cover 61 percent of Seattle. HALA proposes code changes that will make it easier to build accessory dwelling units and backyard cottages (only one percent of homeowners have done so), as well as allow duplexes and triplexes, while preserving the character of single-family neighborhoods.

Residential development continues to be excluded from industrial areas under the proposal.

The City is currently engaged in a community process to update its Comprehensive Plan, called Seattle 2035. Over the past two decades, the Comprehensive Plan has been successful in locating 75 percent of Seattle’s new housing in Urban Centers and Urban Villages. The update, to be completed in 2016, contemplates expansion of Urban Villages and denser housing around transit hubs and light rail stations. HALA’s recommendations will be implemented in conjunction with the updated Comprehensive Plan.

Doubling of Housing Levy in 2016

To meet the needs of the Seattle’s lowest-income residents, those earning less than 30 percent of AMI, HALA also proposes to double the existing $145 million Seattle Housing Levy scheduled to expire in 2016. Over the past 30 years, the levy has funded $400 million to build and preserve nearly 12,000 units of affordable housing.

In 2015, 30 percent of AMI is $18,850 for an individual or $26,900 for a family of four.

This year, the City will award a record $42 million from the Housing Levy and the existing Incentive Zoning program for the development and preservation of low-income housing. The Seattle Office of Housing will issue project guidelines and invite partner applications later this week.

The HALA report also urges the Washington State Legislature to allow Seattle to adopt a 0.25 percent real estate excise tax dedicated to affordable housing development, as well as an increase in the State Housing Trust Fund.

To support moderate-income families, HALA recommends expanding the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption Program (MFTE) that is set to expire at the end of the year. Under MFTE, developers receive a tax exemption when they dedicate 20 percent of units in new buildings for moderate-income people, typically between 65 percent and 85 percent of AMI. HALA proposes to expand the program to all areas where multifamily housing can be built and incorporate a new incentive for three-bedroom units to extend program benefits to larger moderate-income families.

In 2015, 80 percent AMI is $46,100 for an individual and $65,800 for a family of four.

HALA recommends a range of tenant protections to ensure better access to housing, prevent housing discrimination and minimize displacement as rental and ownership costs increase across the city:

  • Prevent displacement as rents increase across the city through a Preservation Property Tax Exemption and other mechanisms.
  • Remove barriers to housing for renters with a criminal history that disproportionately impact people of color.
  • Strengthen the Tenant Relocation Assistance paid to low-income renters who are displaced by new development.
  • Develop new homeownership tools for Muslim buyers who cannot use conventional mortgage products due to their religious convictions.
  • Establish new protections to prevent discrimination against renters due to their source of income.

HALA also recommends that the City continue to review parking policies that contribute to the growth of housing costs or inhibit development in single- and multifamily residential zones.

Murray announces new strategy for city planning

To better manage planning and investments in rapidly growing Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray today signed an executive order to create a new Office of Planning and Community Development to integrate strategic planning functions from across city departments into one single entity.

“We have moved beyond the debate about whether we should allow growth – growth is already here,” said Murray. “When we develop new housing in a neighborhood, we must ensure we also have adequate open space, transportation and access to jobs, social services and other amenities. How we grow and how we invest will go hand in hand.”

Seattle is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, on pace to permit 9000 new housing units this year – 30 percent more than 2014. Seattle will be home to another 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs by 2035.

The new office elevates the planning functions of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to manage Seattle’s construction boom and job growth, while also coordinating public investments in transportation, parks and housing. This office will be composed of planners with expertise in a range of subjects across city departments.

The office will also act as a single point of contact for Seattle residents who have concerns or comments about City planning and investments. The Department of Neighborhoods, led by new director Kathy Nyland, will help facilitate a new approach to community engagement.

“We need an entry-point for community concerns about how we preserve the Seattle that drew us all here in the first place,” said Murray. “And most importantly, this office will help us develop a shared vision for what kind of city we want Seattle to become.”

The mayor also announced that longtime director of DPD, Diane Sugimura, intends to retire later this year after more than three decades of service to the City of Seattle.

“On behalf of the people of the Seattle, I want to extend my thanks to Diane,” said Murray. “I look forward to Diane’s continued contribution to this important conversation on managing growth, as well as her insights in what we are looking for in the next generation of leaders in Seattle planning.”

Over the last two decades, the City has successfully channeled new housing into urban villages to create planned density. Nearly 75 percent of growth has been focused into Seattle’s Urban Centers and Urban Villages.

“My 37 years with the City have been an amazing roller coaster of activity and change,” said Sugimura. “I’ve been fortunate to have been part of these exciting and challenging times. I look forward to helping create the new Office of Planning and Community Development, which will provide an integrated and equitable approach to city growth.”

As integrated planning is elevated to the new Office of Planning and Community Development, the existing regulatory functions of the Department of Planning and Development – permits, code enforcement and inspections – will be housed in a separate agency to be named later. Nathan Torgelson, currently the deputy director at DPD, will lead that agency. Torgelson has 25 years’ experience in planning and economic development in various roles in the cities of Seattle and Kent.

The mayor’s September budget submittal to the City Council will include a detailed plan for both agencies. City departments participating in this planning process include: Department of Planning and Development, Transportation, Parks, Public Utilities, City Light, Housing and Economic Development.

Mayor Murray Encourages Enrollment in Ready to Work

During the final week to enroll in Ready to Work, Mayor Ed Murray encouraged eligible immigrants and refugees to take the opportunity to improve their English skills that will help them access quality jobs.

“One out of every five people in Seattle is foreign-born. Our economy is stronger when immigrants have the opportunity to overcome language and skills barriers,” said Murray. “Ready to Work will help open the door to a job with a livable wage and good working conditions.”

The Ready to Work model will offer tailored learning for each participant to access English as a Second Language, computer literacy and critical job skills training. The courses will be enhanced by hands-on skill training in computers and other workplace basics. Classes will meet four times a week in the summer and five times a week during the fall and spring. There is no cost to program participants.

“What excites me is the innovate approach to adult learning and employment,” says Jill Wakefield, Chancellor for Seattle Colleges. “Social and economic mobility is a big challenge for our community, especially for our immigrant population. Working with our partners to teach ELL with a specific outcome is special. We are doing more than helping them obtain jobs. We are building a foundation for further education, training, and career development—items I view as a key to individual growth and prosperity.”

Summer classes will be offered at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) with an additional Southeast Seattle location to be offered in the fall. Seattle residents over 18 years of age who are looking for a job, or a better job, and have limited English proficiency are encouraged to apply by calling ACRS at (206) 695-7517 as soon as possible. The last day to apply for the program is June 22nd. The first class begins on June 29th.

“We are pleased to support the Mayor’s Ready to Work Initiative,” says Marléna Sessions, CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. “Ready to Work is a fantastic model for connecting immigrants and refugees with limited English proficiency to the skills and career navigation necessary to finding good jobs and meeting the workforce needs of local businesses.”

The partners engaged in Ready to Work include: the Seattle Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs; Seattle Human Services Department and Seattle Office of Economic Development; Seattle Housing Authority; Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services; Seattle Jobs Initiative; Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County; Port Jobs; Seattle Colleges; Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges; Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS); Seattle Goodwill; Neighborhood House; and One America.

Brian Surratt to head Office of Economic Development

Today Mayor Ed Murray named Brian Surratt director of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED). Surratt will replace Steve Johnson, who is stepping down after leading the department for the past six years.

“Brian has demonstrated strong leadership in support of Seattle’s workers and businesses,” said Murray. “He is a trusted advisor, and his contributions are helping businesses succeed and grow quality jobs. Seattle is a diverse, innovative, and globally connected community of businesses. We look forward to supporting an even more competitive and resilient economy that grows middle-class jobs.”

During the first 18 months of the Murray Administration, Surratt has served in the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation as senior policy advisor on economic development issues. He helped guide the work of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee that developed the path to a $15 minimum wage. He also worked with regional partners to recruit and retain businesses in the city, including Juno Therapeutics. This year, Surratt was honored with a fellowship from the German Marshall Fund.

“I am honored by this opportunity to serve the Mayor and the city as director of the Office of Economic Development,” says Surratt. “Seattle is a special place that actively cultivates and attracts creative ideas and people that impact the world. Our entrepreneurs are growing the economy without sacrificing our values of shared prosperity. We want to foster an open and supportive environment for creating new jobs in robust business ventures.”

Before joining the Mayor’s Office, Surratt worked at OED for nearly a decade, including three years as deputy director. Previously, he helped launch a Portland software company, served as public affairs manager for First & Goal, Inc. and the Seattle Seahawks, along with stints at the South Downtown Foundation and with former State Representative and current State Treasurer Jim McIntire.

“The Chamber applauds Mayor Murray’s nomination of Brian Surratt as the next director of OED,” said Maud Daudon, CEO, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Brian is one of Seattle’s brightest emerging minds on economic development and understands the many challenges and opportunities facing Seattle’s business community.”

“I got to know Brian Surratt over the past year and a half during the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee work,” said David Rolf, President, SEIU 775.  “Brian played a remarkable role in working with labor, community and business leaders to help drive a challenging process which ultimately led to Seattle’s historic adoption of a path to a $15 minimum wage.”

“I have known Brian for 15 years and he has demonstrated his support for Seattle’s manufacturing and maritime communities. I look forward to working with the Mayor and Brian in the years ahead,” said Dave Gering, Executive Director, Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle.

“I’ve worked with Brian for eight years and in that time I’ve found him to be a balanced and effective public servant,” said David Freiboth, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Martin Luther King County Labor Council. “He is a true innovator when it comes to developing solutions to complex problems. The prospect of working with someone with Brian’s grasp of the economic complexities of Seattle is exciting.”

“Throughout his role in Mayor Murray’s office, Brian has consistently supported the success of Seattle restaurants,” said Angela Stowell, President, Seattle Restaurant Alliance and co-owner of Ethan Stowell Restaurants.  “We hope to continue partnering with him and the Mayor to develop programs and initiatives that support, celebrate and grow Seattle’s restaurant and hospitality community.”

“Brian Surratt’s diverse range of experiences as a civic diplomat, policy wonk, corporate manager and tech entrepreneur make him an impressive choice to lead economic development for Seattle,” said Julie Pham, Vice President, Washington Technology Industry Association. “These roles, combined with his work on his mother’s restaurants and family’s cattle ranch, give Brian a unique perspective on developing and growing businesses of all sizes. WTIA looks forward to continuing our partnership with the Office of Economic Development now under Brian’s leadership to help generate new jobs across the entire region.”

Surratt joins OED on June 15 and will earn an annual salary of $132,000.

Steve Johnson started his career with the City during Mayor Norm Rice’s administration, when he helped consolidate City ownership of the Cedar River Watershed. At OED, he developed a number of innovative community and economic development programs, including the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund and partnerships with post-secondary education institutions and philanthropy to reimagine how to deliver education and training for low-income working adults.

“Steve has shown exemplary commitment to the people and City of Seattle,” said Murray. “I thank Steve for over two decades of public service, highlighted by the remaking of the Office of Economic Development. I appreciate his focus on direct service to individual businesses, strategic investments in the revitalization of our neighborhood business districts, and career advancement for working people. I wish him the best in his next chapter.”

“I’m both appreciative of the opportunity to serve in Mayor Murray’s administration and am looking forward to the next chapter in my life,” said Johnson. “The City must play an active role in economic development and I am thrilled at Brian’s appointment. He played an instrumental role in building this office and has the skills to help the Mayor achieve his vision. As for me, I intend to continue my work for the people of Seattle.”

Johnson will be stepping down to spend more time with family before pursuing other professional opportunities.