Marty’s Musings

By HDC Executive Director, Marty Kooistra

Seattle-SkylineWelcome to my new blog series! As a member of the HALA committee, I think it’s important to share with you what has been going on in our meetings so far and to get your perspective and feedback about our work. I hope to give further updates as new ideas are raised and decisions are made. Check back in periodically for more information from our committee meetings. After all, as Seattle workers and residents, we could all be affected by these decisions, and you deserve to know what is happening.

For anyone unfamiliar with HALA, Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Committee has been meeting regularly to discuss viable ways to tackle Seattle’s deep need for affordable housing. We have been discussing a myriad of possibilities to address Seattle’s future regarding housing, and energy is building around a few options that are really worth exploring to ease the housing crisis here. The committee must issue a recommendation to Mayor Murray by May 30th. Its recommendations will help chart a course for housing development in Seattle over the next 10 years.

Recently, strategy workgroups were formed within the HALA group to focus our energies and expertise on issues that require further research, the results of which will then be brought back to the larger group. We are fortunate to have many smart and experienced HDC member minds as part of the workgroups and the broader HALA Committee:

  • Bill Rumpf – President, Mercy Housing Northwest
  • Don Mar – Owner, Marpac Construction
  • Estela Ortega – Executive Director, El Centro de la Raza
  • Kristin Ryan – Director, Seattle Office, Jonathan Rose Companies
  • MA Leonard – Vice President, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Maiko Winkler-Chin – Executive Director, SCIDpda
  • Paul Lambros – Executive Director, Plymouth Housing Group

Among others, I’ve been participating in is the New Resources Workgroup. We are investigating possible affordable housing tools that are not currently implemented in Seattle with a focus on completely new tools and those already gaining traction in other areas of the U.S.

Some of the notable tools that are attracting the most interest are:

  • Consider State legislation to authorize a local option real estate excise tax (REET) to fund affordable housing.
    • This would allow the city to use a local tax on real estate sales to fund affordable housing. Currently, Seattle REET revenues go toward many capital improvements, yet none of that money goes toward the basic human need for housing. A Seattle-specific REET would help provide a steady source of revenue dedicated to building more affordable housing in the city.
  • A system for attracting contributions from employers for affordable housing.
  • Social impact bonds
    • In an interesting new way of working with the private sector, The City of Seattle would set a desired outcome for future affordable housing development and make a deal with an external group to make that happen. If the contracted group brings about the desired end result, then the government would pay them a certain agreed-upon sum of money. If the intended results aren’t met, the Seattle government wouldn’t pay. Social impact bonds have been issued in other places to target other major social issues as well, such as Massachusetts addressing recidivism.
  • Reinstituting the City Growth Fund
    • Previously, Seattle had a growth fund that captured a portion of new revenue growth and dedicated it to affordable housing. As the city continues to grow in population, a portion of increased tax revenues could again be set aside and used specifically to put revenue to affordable housing.

I am exploring each of these tools to better understand their costs and benefits. I would love to hear your thoughts about what tools you think will be most useful. Please let me know by taking a quick survey below. I appreciate your input, and I will take your feedback into consideration as we in the HALA committee try to develop feasible ways for providing affordable housing options for all residents in Seattle.

We at HDC also know that a linkage fee is another important tool the City should implement later this year. We continue to work with the Growing Together Coalition to support a linkage fee. For more information, and to find out how you can support the linkage fee in Seattle, please visit the Growing Together Coalition website.

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