The good news is Seattle-based companies are hiring. The bad news is not everyone is getting paid Amazon.com, Boeing or Microsoft-level wages. As more people move into the city, moderate to low-income renters face skyrocketing prices. (Here’s a must-read July 1 news story by Seattle Times reporter Colin Campbell.) We’re already seeing a rise in suburban poverty throughout parts of King County. It’s yet another sign that people may work in the urban core, but they can’t afford to live here. Or perhaps they are in situations similar to people in other cities who are inclined to save money by living in cramped quarters with many roommates.
Quality of life is at stake. I really believe employees from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds should be able to live comfortably close to work, schools and central Seattle amenities like parks, restaurants and shopping. This isn’t just about convenience. The further people have to travel for their job, the more money they will have to set aside for transportation and the less they will have to spend on other goods and services essential to the local economy.
Here’s a link to our Friday editorial that urges city council and mayoral candidates to give this issue urgent attention. Now is the time for us to think big and start talking about how to increase affordable housing options.
What do you think the city should do? Vote in the poll below, or add your own answers. Then go to this link at noon Friday for our mayoral live chat. Affordable housing is likely to be one of the big issues we discuss.
Streamlining the permitting process and changing zoning laws are probably the easiest ways to creative incentives for developers to incorporate more affordable housing into their projects. In the big picture, a special advisory group is set to make formal recommendations in 2014. As pointed out in the editorial, solutions they are considering include:
• Embracing a market-based understanding of development, including ensuring that unnecessary and costly regulations do not discourage affordable housing;
• Adjusting the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program, which requires developers who want the exemption to dedicate at least 20 percent of units to tenants with lower incomes;
• Encouraging residential construction in centrally located areas close to transit, jobs, schools and parks;
• Adopting best practices from other cities, including New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s much-publicized competition to promote better micro-apartment design standards.
Seattle isn’t the only city grappling with a shortage. One of the more controversial solutions of late is the rise of micro-apartments, tiny dorm-like spaces that are coming up all over the University District and Capitol Hill. Inhabitants appreciate the cheap rent. Some neighbors abhor their design. In this April 25 blog post, I wrote about how this small-space living phenomenon has been spreading all over the world. Love ’em or hate ’em, everyone needs a place to call home that’s within their means.