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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

September 23, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Seattle officials ask new housing affordability committee to seek solutions

Mayor Ed Murray vowed Tuesday to address Seattle’s housing affordability crisis the same way he handled the debate earlier this year over raising the city’s minimum wage: by seeking recommendations from an advisory committee.

The 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee, established by a City Council resolution that Murray signed Tuesday, will be co-chaired by Faith Li Pettis, a partner at Pacifica Law Group, and David Wertheimer, who oversees homelessness work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The unpaid, volunteer committee includes local housing experts, real estate developers and advocates for tenants and low-income people.

“The Advisory Committee will review every piece of the housing puzzle, including exploring innovative ideas to pilot new types of housing, the impact of accessory dwelling units, new efforts to preserve existing affordable housing, opportunities to stretch our valuable housing levy dollars using public-private partnerships, and more,” a Murray news release said.

The committee will hold three public meetings in November and December and an online “town hall” meeting, and will issue its recommendations to Murray by May 30, the mayor said.

The model for the new committee is the Income Inequality Advisory Committee created in December. That committee included labor and business representatives and hashed out a compromise for a new $15 minimum wage.

“Now that we’ve successfully increased Seattle’s minimum wage, housing affordability is the next major policy area we must tackle to close the income inequality gap, and we must act with as great a sense of urgency as we did with the minimum wage,” Murray said in the release.

Housing affordability is a much broader issue than raising the minimum wage, and Seattle has dug itself into a deep hole.

Between 2010 and 2013, tenants here saw their rents increase 11 percent, the sharpest spike in the country among the nation’s 50 most-populous cities.

And Seattle is now No. 10 on the list of the most expensive cities in the country for renters.

Seattle voters renewed the city’s Housing Levy in 2009 — to the tune of $145 million over seven years — to help build and preserve affordable housing for low-income people.

Comments | More in General news, Government | Topics: $15 minimum wage, housing, Mayor Ed Murray

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