Major Milestones for Seattle Housing Policy

While our last update focused on Tech 4 Housing’s statewide advocacy work in Olympia, the past few weeks have seen significant movement on local Seattle issues.

Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA): Tech 4 Housing turned out supporters for the final public hearing on MHA, which thanks to dedicated and persistent advocacy from a number of groups, is expected to pass this month after nearly four years of public process. MHA is the lynchpin of Seattle's housing strategy, and is expected to produce over 20,000 more homes over the next 20 years, including over 6,000 low-income rent-restricted units. MHA’s passage also marks a victory for the mainstream consensus that the housing crisis is fundamentally driven by a shortage of housing, and that if housing is to be affordable, we must address the policy roadblocks that are making it scarce.

Ft. Lawton: Tech 4 Housing submitted written comment and turned out supporters for the final hearing on the Ft. Lawton Redevelopment Plan, which would bring 238 affordable homes to Magnolia. For almost a decade, wealthy neighbors had successfully delayed the project with legal appeals, but the tide began turning last year when housing advocates, including Tech 4 Housing, made a concerted effort to show public support for creating a mixed-income community in one of Seattle’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

Affordable Housing 101—our biggest event ever: We held one of our most successful and well attended educational events yet, an Affordable Housing 101 presentation in partnership with Mercy Housing. About 75 people came out to learn more about what affordable housing is, how it's built and funded, and what regular people can do to help.

Supporting State action on housing affordability: Our Board President and dedicated organizer, Calvin Jones, got a letter published in the Seattle Times rebutting their editorial board's incoherent argument that the State shouldn't get involved in setting housing and land use policy. As Calvin argued, “Statewide problems demand statewide action.”

Still to come in Seattle in the next few months will be legislation to make it easier for homeowners to build backyard cottages, and potential work on comprehensive plan updates. We’ll also be hosting another event with Mercy Housing on April 10, a happy hour and tour of one of their recent buildings. More details to come soon.

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Ethan P. Goodman
Busy Start to Housing Advocacy in Olympia

Last week was a big week for Tech 4 Housing advocacy in Olympia, with work on tax incentives for mixed-income housing, support for tech industry advocacy on eviction reform, and legalizing tiny houses.

Tax incentives for mixed-income housing: On Monday Tech 4 Housing submitted a letter of support for SB 5363, the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption (MFTE) extension. The MFTE program is Washington's most widely used tool for developing mixed-income housing, producing over 1,000 units of rent- and income-restricted housing a year in Seattle alone. Under current law, properties lose the tax incentive and the affordability requirements after 12 years. SB 5363 would give municipalities the option of renegotiating those affordability requirements for another 12 years, preserving thousands of affordable homes that would otherwise revert to market rate.

Support for tech advocacy on eviction reform: On Tuesday a group of 10 executives primarily from the tech industry wrote a letter in support of reforming statewide eviction rules, which currently give tenants a meager 3 days to pay late bills before facing eviction proceedings. This is exactly the kind of engagement we want to see more of from the tech industry, so we reached out to thank each of the signatories, and organized a quick campaign to get tech workers at their companies to do the same.

Legalizing tiny houses: On Wednesday I went down to Olympia in person to testify before the Senate Committee on Housing Stability & Affordability in support of legalizing tiny houses, SB 5382 and 5383. In my testimony I talked about the backwardness of making sustainable and inexpensive housing options like tiny homes illegal while allowing 4,000 square foot McMansions to be built essentially anywhere.

While there I also took the opportunity…

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Ethan P. Goodman