Mayor Ed Murray released the following statement in response to a recent Council proposal on housing:
“Just this past August, Seattle residents voted to double the Housing Levy, a $290 million investment by taxpayers to build affordable housing across the City. At the same time, the City is implementing the first ever requirements that developers either build or fund affordable housing, has passed significant tenant protections, and is building a state and federal agenda that includes reinvesting in the state Housing Trust Fund and expanding the federal Housing Tax Credit program as part of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. With all this work, the City should not take on irresponsible debt that is far costlier than building affordable housing through these programs, and is at the expense of other immediate and future funding priorities.”
In his time in office, Mayor Murray has worked with City Council to ensure an affordable and equitable Seattle for all. In the last two years, Mayor Murray and members of the Council have worked to address the affordability crisis through the most ambitious affordable housing plan in Seattle’s history. The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) sets the City on a path to building 20,000 affordable homes in the next ten years, a tripling of the City’s previous rate of production of affordable housing, as part of ensuring that everyone who works in Seattle can live in Seattle.
With the new Housing Levy and full passage of the Mandatory Housing Affordability Program, the Mayor and City Council are on pace to more than triple spending on affordable housing compared to 2012-2013.
*New Affordable Housing Levy begins in 2017
**MHA projected to take effect middle of 2018, as Incentive Zoning Program (IZ) phases out
HALA put Seattle on a path to doubling the Seattle Housing Levy, which allows increased investment in housing for people with low or no incomes. The 2016 Housing Levy increases capital investment in new or preserved affordable housing increases to $201 million over the seven-year life of the 2016 Housing Levy. In addition, the 2016 Housing Levy includes $11.5 million for homelessness prevention, $42 million for operating and maintenance funding that allows affordable housing to serve those with extremely low or no incomes, and $9.5 million for homeownership programs.
Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA)
As part of HALA the City will require developers to either build or fund affordable housing, for the first time. The City is shifting from the voluntary Incentive Zoning Program (IZ) focused primarily on Downtown and South Lake Union to a mandatory program in all areas where multifamily and commercial development is allowed. Last year, the Mayor and Council enacted the commercial framework for this program and this summer, the residential framework. The first rezone under MHA, for the University District, has been transmitted to Council, with Downtown and South Lake Union to be sent in early 2017. The City is on track for 2017 implementation in all other Urban Centers and Villages. HALA’s MHA program alone is projected to create 6,300 units alone over the next 10 years.
Multifamily Tax Exemption
Under HALA, the City expanded the use of the Multifamily Tax Exemption cover more areas, helping ensure affordable housing is built all over the City. In late 2015, Council and the Mayor enacted the expansion increasing the area covered by the program to 100% of all areas where multifamily development is allowed, a nearly 70% increase in area covered by the program. The number of affordable homes created under the MFTE is expected to double from 2015 to 2017.
State and Federal Agenda
Working with the state legislature, we are also seeking authority for a new dedicated source of revenue for housing, an estimated $30 million per year from REET III, and are simultaneously pursuing a tax exemption program for the preservation of existing affordable housing units. Also at the state level, we are championing reinvestment in the state Housing Trust Fund, seeking the prior high water mark of $200 million after years of erosion. Concurrently, Senator Cantwell is advancing legislation that would expand the federal Housing Tax Credit program that leverages our state and local funding. Together these strategies provide a framework for funding a significant expansion of affordable housing units here in Seattle.
Additional HALA Implementation
The City has already passed and/or implemented other key elements of HALA, including new tenant protections, improvements to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance and increased funding for regional transit oriented development. The City is currently working on other HALA initiatives to increase affordability, including increasing access for people with criminal records and parking reforms.