A moment of appreciation and celebration…

Today, Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to implement the Fort Lawton Redevelopment Plan. This is the culmination of over a decade of work and energy from the Seattle Office of Housing and committed advocates who continue to show up and speak out on the importance of affordable homes.

(C) The Stranger

The former federal army reserve site at Fort Lawton is underutilized surplus land that through partnerships between the City and nonprofits Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Housing Services will be used to create 237 affordable homes. We have a tremendous need in our community for affordable housing and its gratifying to see our elected leaders acting with the urgency this moment demands.

The redevelopment includes homes for formerly homeless older adults, low-income families, and affordable homeownership opportunities. When we have a tool like surplus land in our toolbox, it is vitally important to make sure we are leveraging it to do the most public good by working across the income spectrum and addressing a range of needs.

Today’s success reminds us that often the goal of safe, healthy, and affordable homes is a marathon not a sprint. There were challenges and bumps along the way, but thanks to the commitment of the Office of Housing staff and committed advocates who engaged at every step of the process we are finally seeing results. Here at HDC we are proud to have worked alongside incredible elected leaders, passionate advocates, and responsive city staff. The affordable housing movement is one of many parts, but when we come together, we are able to put ourselves further on the path to safe, healthy, and affordable homes for all.

Take a moment to celebrate, and then join us as we continue this work. Sign up here to be notified for upcoming advocacy opportunities.


What Your Advocacy Will Lead To…

There’s a lot going on right now in the housing policy world, and you are being asked to keep taking action, to show up, and to keep energized and engaged. It can be overwhelming. This is what you are fighting for. 

237 Affordable Homes

The former army reserve site, Fort Lawton, is under utilized public land. Over the past 15 years, advocates have been engaged with the City of Seattle to use this public land for the public good. The City in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Community/Housing Services will use the surplus land to create much needed affordable homes. The 237 affordable homes will include 85 permanent supportive housing for senior making at or below 30% of Area Median Income (AMI), 100 apartments for low-income people and families making up to 60% AMI, and affordable homeownership opportunities for people making up to 80% AMI.

Every neighborhood needs more affordable homes, and every neighbor deserves their lawmakers to use all the tools in the toolkit. Using surplus public land to build affordable homes across the income spectrum, is a crucial step in meeting the tremendous need for housing in our community.

The final vote on the Plan will be on June 10th! Take action now!

Community Voice and Anti-Displacement

The Seattle Office of Housing is updating their Administrative and Financial Plan including a suite of recommendations from Mayor Durkan on anti-displacement strategies. One of these proposed changes is a Community Preference Policy. This policy would allow community groups to partner with the Office of Housing and the affordable housing developers to help ensure that the development in benefiting the community its built in while remaining in compliance with the Fair Housing Act. This is an example of how when affordable housing development is done right it can serve as an anti-displacement tool as the people most at risk from being pushed out of their community are being served by the new housing. We have a tremendous need for housing in Seattle, but we have to build with accountability to the communities that make Seattle such a vibrant place to live.

The legislation will be discussed on June 6th and voted on June 17th. Take action now!

Minimizing Barriers

The King County Regional Affordable Housing Task Force found that we need 156,000 affordable homes right now. The County is investing in staff and other resources to see the recommendations of the Task Force come to fruition and put us on the path of reaching that number through production and preservation. Part of being able to build to the scale of tremendous need we have, is making it easier for affordable housing developers to build. Affordable housing advocates are encouraging King County Council to create an exemption for affordable developments from paying the Sewer Capacity Charge.

This legislation will be discussed on June 12th. Sign up to testify here!


Advocacy leads to policy and policy leads to progress. Thank you for all you do to ensure that everyone in King County has access to safe, healthy, and affordable homes. Reach out to [email protected] about talking points or any other questions on getting involved.

South King Housing and Homelessness Partners Honor HDC

After years of convenings, collaboration, and dedication on the part of South King County cities elected officials and city staff, King County, and HDC staff, the South King Housing and Homelessness Partners (SKHHP) has emerged as a group leading the sub-regional collaboration needed to meet the needs of their communities.

Auburn, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Normandy Park, Renton, Tukwila, and King County have all committed to be a part of this group and fund it as it works to build staff capacity. The entity will work alongside cities to create housing strategy plans, fill their policy toolkits with the tools needed to address the local and regional housing gaps, and increase the capacity of these cities to build and preserve community-relevant affordable housing.

Last month, the Executive board of SKHHP met for the first time and are working on staffing up.

On the Friday of Affordable Housing Week, the SKHHP staff work group awarded HDC in recognition of our longstanding and continued commitment and leadership in South King County. Thank you for honoring the many staff over the year who have put in the work to be a strong partner in this work of bold collaboration and strong commitment to safe, healthy, and affordable homes for all.

HDC Awarded Proud Partner Award

At the 2019 Affordable Housing Week Kickoff Event, the Housing Development Consortium was awarded the Proud Partner Award by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. The Commission and HDC have worked together for thirty years, have shared many successes, and have effectively collaborated time and time again to achieve our shared vision of everyone living in dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

“They are our superheroes of housing in Seattle King County.

And like the best superheroes, they are a team with a wide range of powers.

Like Captain America, they lead the troops with integrity and get us all headed in the same direction.

Like Black Panther, they show their claws when necessary and use their technological superiority to mobilize and support us all.

Like Spider-Man, they stick to it and persevere through the webs of politics.

Like the Hulk, they smash through barriers—like institutional racism and NIMBYism.

And like Captain Marvel, they light up the darkness and blast us forward into a brighter future.”

HDC, we at the Housing Finance Commission are very pleased to honor you with a Proud Partner Award. Thank you for being our superheroes of housing!”-Kim Herman



2019 Annual Celebration Award Winners

HDC’s Annual Celebration is about recognizing the progress of the affordable housing movement, and the strength and depth of the commitment and compassion of the affordable housing community. The incredible achievements that have led us to the current moment where we are energized to continue to do this work wouldn’t be possible without visionary leaders who have been instrumental to the success of HDC and the work of achieving a King County where everyone lives with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes. 

This year we our honored to award Steve Clagett, Linda Hall, and Tom Jacobi with the Board of Directors award, and Maureen Kostyack with the Carla Okigwe Award.

Steve Clagett:

In 1980, county planner Steve Clagett and other housing activists founded Common Ground (which merged with Bellwether in 2013) in response to a growing housing crisis in the downtown core. The organization began by helping local social service agencies and churches preserve and transform historic buildings into affordable housing, saving many downtown Seattle landmarks. Steve and Common Ground were also founding members of HDC in 1988, and Steve served on the board from 1988 – 1992. From Common Ground, Steve went on to take executive and leadership roles with 1000 Friends of Washington (now Futurewise), King County Housing Authority, and ONE/Northwest (now Groundwire). Steve has an affinity for coalition building and leading through both reflection and forward thinking, serving as the co-leader of Faith Action Network’s Economic Justice Working Group and recently served on HDC’s 30th Anniversary Committee, helping to create the banners documenting our sector’s growth and progress.

“Get someone into a home, and change happens in their life…That’s been our philosophy from the start.” Steve Clagett


Linda Hall:

A leader within the area’s human services community, Linda Hall has spent the past 15 years in executive-level positions at many local nonprofits. Linda was previously the Executive Director of St. Andrew’s Housing Group (now Imagine Housing), Director of Real Estate with the Seattle Housing Authority, and Director of Housing Development with the YWCA Seattle – King – Snohomish. Now at Loveall Price and Associates working as a Project Manager for Congregations for the Homeless, Linda continues to lead as an advocate for affordable housing on the Eastside. She was a co-leader on the Issaquah Zero Energy Village and recognized by ARCH “as a passionate voice for affordable housing”  Linda served on the HDC board from 2001 – 2009, and served as board president from 2004-2005. Linda is a long-time partner of HDC and continues to help lead projects and committees within the association. She was instrumental in the creation of the 30th Anniversary banners.

“Every now and then you get an incredible opportunity…This has been a project of a lifetime for me.”
-Linda Hall


Tom Jacobi:

With 35+ years of experience in financial management, mortgage lending, and loan servicing, Tom Jacobi plays an important role at HomeSight, and has occupied almost every job at the organization – from project manager to finance manager, to lender, to loan servicer, building maintenance, and capital procurement and compliance.After 25 years with HomeSight, he seen as the institutional memory of the power of affordable homeownership advocacy. In his current role as Chief Portfolio Officer, Tom is a CDFI application veteran with the wins to back it up, and has played an integral role in representing the important voice of homeownership within HDC, serving on the Board of Directors from 1997 – 2002. We were also told that in his youth, Tom hopped trains for a while, and is the resident Nordic Ski patroller and cross-country expeditioner for HomeSight.

“Affordability has always been an issue. HomeSight is still learning, still growing but now as a national leader in non-profit lending. We need to keep evolving our tools and resources to help working families purchase their first home.”-Tom Jacobi


Carla Okigwe Award Winner: Maureen Kostyack

Maureen has played a major role in shaping the housing priorities in Olympia and King County since the early 1990’s. One of her great successes was the creation of the Washington Families Fund by the Washington Legislature. She was the visionary who saw the need for a fund to support social services connected to affordable housing. In her role with the Seattle Office of Housing, Maureen educated policy makers and elected officials about the ins and outs of housing needs and navigated political landscapes to keep affordable housing on the forefront of people’s minds. Her incredible leadership in spearheading two renewals of the Seattle Housing levy, serving on the boards of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and HDC, and more has made her a pivotal player in all facets of the affordable housing conversation: housing finance, land use, and a passionate advocate at every table. We are honored to award her with the Carla Okigwe award named after HDC’s founder. Maureen has played a pivotal role in the region’s affordable housing progress, and her impact can be seen in the affordable homes built throughout the county!


“What happens when we combine rather than collide?”







Tired, empty, hating what I carry
But afraid to lay it down, stingy,
Angry, doing violence to others
By the sheer freight of my gloom
Halfway home, wanting to stop, to quit
But keeping going mostly out of spite.
– from “Charity” by Tracy K. Smith

Her thoughts on “the cost of compassion” were what first grabbed me and pulled me into the work of the Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Equity, justice, hope, and humanity—and the forces that work for and against them—are at the core of her work, just like they’re at the core of the work of all members of HDC.

Ms. Smith compels me to think deeply about how I process today’s starkly divergent perspectives about society’s failure to grant everyone housing security. Poems like “Charity” remind me that any discomfort I’m experiencing from these intense and polarizing tensions still pales in comparison to the pain endured by those living each day on the periphery.

I do wonder some days if we can let go of our certainties just long enough to agree to seek common ground. And then just long enough to respectfully hold opposing perspectives. And then just long enough to discover what might happen when we combine rather than collide.
Years ago when I worked in global development, colleagues shared “Two Ears of Corn” by Roland Bunch. One line jumped out and has stayed with me since: “the problem with charity is that you need a recipient.”

Ms. Smith’s “Charity” recalls that quote. It reminds me that doing this work well means rising above ourselves to get to a place of surrender and receptiveness. A place where we understand that it’s not really about us. Where we admit we don’t come with the answers and that we need to be quiet and learn from the people we’re seeking to serve (and, yes, from those we disagree with).

HDC’s annual celebration is always about standing in awe of the power this movement derives from its incredible diversity of life experiences and perspectives. Our 2019 celebration is on April 23, and Tracy K. Smith will be right there with us. Reserve your seat now, and feel free to include any others in your orbit who could use a boost of joy and optimism.

Marty Kooistra

My Afternoon With Path With Art

“The things that a poem can teach them to see and to hear and to listen for are necessary.”-TKS

How does poetry relate to housing? What power and presence can we glean from the arts to energize our affordable housing movement? These are the questions I’ve been grappling with since I heard that U.S Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith would be our keynote speaker at HDC’s Annual Celebration on April 23..

I began sifting through her poetry and the pieces started clicking together as the undertones of her poems evoked the same currents of passion, drive, and values that I see every day in the work of HDC’s members and the King County affordable housing community. Her art parallels the mission of the social services and policy change happening all around us here at HDC, and with that, the importance of the intersection of the creative, restorative presence of the arts, and the direct action of social services and advocacy became a centerpiece to this year’s celebration.

HDC member Path With Art works in this intersection every day. They hold quarter-long art classes, ranging from music to painting, poetry to sculpture, for people currently or formerly experiencing homelessness. This past quarter, the poetry class of over a dozen students focused on analyzing and deriving inspiration from the works of Tracy K. Smith. The hours they have put in on their poetry has resulted in truly amazing pieces that will be showcased at this year’s Annual Celebration, where the students will also have the opportunity to meet with Ms. Smith and explain what her work has meant to them.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to sit in on one of the classes. I walked in nervous, both daunted by the poetry and by the fact I was a guest in their space, but the minute I walked in I was greeted warmly. I was welcomed with open arms and immediately was introduced to the people in the room. The woman on my right immediately turned to me and began asking me questions about Fort Lawton, explaining she had submitted public comment for the need for affordable housing, even though she wouldn’t qualify to live there. The before-class conversations ranged from housing topics to one women’s struggle with all the cords her son had installed for her, and everything in between.

When I announced to the class that they might have the opportunity to meet with Ms. Smith, the room buzzed with excitement and grins. Everyone gushed about how big of fans they had become after spending weeks grappling with her poetry.

The class began with an exercise to write about events for feelings from the past week using the format of news headlines. We went around the circle and shared. They ranged from long and meaningful to pithy and fun. Mine elicited a few laughs and I felt like I’d been initiated as part of the group. We then dove head first into one of Ms. Smith’s poems, “Watershed,” which weaves together the story of a company who put chemicals in the water even after knowing their harmful effects, and reflections from people online telling their near-death experiences. It was lengthy, dense, and graphic but left me again in awe of Ms. Smith’s abilities. As a class we analyzed the work before setting off on our own to find news headlines and other writing sources to weave together in our own patchwork poetry.

During that time, I was able to talk more with my classmates and they told me how much Path With Art means to them and the tremendous impact it has had on their lives. Before I could believe it, class was over and I was off to the bus stop. On my way out, a few classmates stopped me to continue chatting. Everyone there was eager to express their interest in getting involved in housing and homelessness advocacy as well as expressing appreciation and excitement for the opportunity to meet with Ms. Smith.

On my bus ride back, I reflected on what a special experience it had been. This year’s Annual Celebration will be all the more uplifting thanks to our partnership with Path With Art and Tracy K. Smith’s presence. Sometimes, in this work, you can get lost in the seemingly Sisyphean trek for change, but what poetry and all the arts can help remind us of is the emotional core that centers our work. Yesterday was a great reminder of that for me, and I know our celebration will be that for many as well.

-Leah Haberman, Outreach and Communications Manager


A Quest for Empathy

Until I can understand why you
Fled, why you are willing to bleed,
Why you deserve what I must be
Willing to cede, let me imagine
You are my mother in Montgomery…

from “Refuge” by Tracy K. Smith

HDC’s members unite as a movement around a common vision: all people living with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes within communities of opportunity. We all know realizing that vision means realizing how intertwined it is with equity and justice. And getting there means comprehending the realness of the lives of those who are housing insecure.

In her 2018 collection Wade in the Water, Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K.  Smith examines equity and justice both in the broad context of our nation’s history and in the tight space of individual lives.

Throughout, as in her poem “Refuge” (which she wrote after attending a seminar on forced migration), she underscores the power and the elusiveness of empathy.

As a sector, we’re pretty great at generating messaging that we hope compels everyone to care. Certainly, housing security and homelessness have captured the attention of the media and the general public as never before. But nothing has a chance of making the necessary impact without a climate of “systemic empathy.”

Front-line staff of HDC member organizations know this. They facilitate extraordinary changes in the lives of the people and communities they serve—and work tirelessly at it, without regard for the hour, the day of the week, or the boundaries of job descriptions—because they’re equipped with professional skills fueled by empathy.

If we really want just, equitable, scalable, and sustainable solutions to the housing crisis, each of us, regardless of our role or affiliation in the sector, needs to emulate them.

Speaking of honoring HDC member staff: we all come together once a year to do just that. If you’ve been to one of HDC’s annual member celebrations, you know they’re all about creating a space to lift up the work, honor each of you, and enrich our shared experience.

Our 2019 celebration is on April 23, and we’re tremendously honored to have Tracy K. Smith as keynote speaker. Please take a minute now to reserve your organization’s tables. Also, maybe think about bringing someone who’s not part of our sector on a daily basis: I hear empathy’s really contagious.

Marty Kooistra, Executive Director

MHA is a Win-Win for Seattle Housing Affordability

Seattle is finally moving forward to pass Citywide Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), which would require all new development, no matter where it is built in Seattle, to contribute to affordable housing. This is long overdue. Non-profit developers stand ready to expand access to affordable housing with an infusion of MHA resources.

There is a broad sentiment in our community for changing the status quo on housing. In its recent

announcement, Microsoft boldly supported policy changes including increased density and reduced parking and other land use changes consistent with the MHA approach.  They put up $500 million of corporate dollars to demonstrate that all parts of our community need to advance solutions.


The Mandatory Housing Affordability program requires private developers to contribute to affordable housing by either including affordable units on site or making a payment to support the creation of affordable housing. Unfortunately the Seattle Times Editorial titled “Engage to save Seattle neighborhoods” misrepresents and undervalues the beneficial impact of the financial resources and production of housing that will result from MHA.


Both of MHA’s housing production methods have positives.  When for profit developers include HALA

affordable apartments on-site, they provide mixed-income buildings in the areas of greatest growth.  When they make a payment in lieu of on-site performance, the City uses those contributions to address priorities not being met by the market, such as producing 2 or 3-bedroom, family-size apartments, and supporting projects serving seniors, homeless or special needs.


The City has a strong track record of deploying resources from the Seattle Housing Levy, Incentive Zoning payments – and now – MHA payments, into affordable housing. Mayor Durkan recently announced funding awards of $75 million dedicated to build and preserve 1400 affordable rental homes. Although this was the City’s biggest annual commitment ever, it necessitated a great triage of resources as the total applications received by the City were over $240 million dollars. Many proposals, with land and plans in hand, are on hold until more MHA payments flow.

Mercy Housing Northwest alone has a pipeline of housing that will serve nearly 500 households, including at transit sites in Mt. Baker and Roosevelt and at Magnuson Park. These would simply not be possible without City financial support.


The Seattle Times has had excellent reporting on the numbers and the human impact of our area

AIA Seattle

housing crisis in their Project Homeless series, in the FYI Guy columns and in their real estate reporting.  It is puzzling that the editorial board can read their own reporting and rather than feel a sense of urgency, simply suggest more delay on what has been 3-years of process, study and fair time for appeals.

Delaying MHA won’t stop growth or contribute to affordable housing. During this long boom, developers have built with lesser affordability requirements. The delays in adopting MHA due to a protracted appeal are conservatively estimated to have cost $87 million in developer contributions or over 700 affordable homes that would have been built if the program were in place.


MHA is the product of years of analysis and community engagement.  It is time to move beyond a static view of neighborhoods and embrace this requirement to harness the capacity and resources of the private sector, as well as to provide leverage to nonprofit developers, to improve housing options for everyone.

Take Action:

Author-Bill Rumpf is President of Mercy Housing Northwest. Mercy Housing is one of the nation’s largest affordable housing organizations and is a member of the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County.

A True Solution to a Real Problem: A Pro-MHA Response to Seattle Times

Seattle’s crippling housing crisis has made it harder for people of all income levels to live in our city. One major factor behind our skyrocketing cost of living is that our housing policies are stuck in the past. It is illegal to build even a duplex on 75 percent of the land zoned for housing in Seattle. If we’re serious about affordability, then it’s time for a change.


Seattle is considering a suite of innovative strategies to unlock ways to create more housing options across the income spectrum, developed after nearly four years of community engagement with tens of thousands of residents. Unfortunately, the Seattle Times editorial titled “Engage to save Seattle neighborhoods” is an alarming misrepresentation of two key legislative proposals in this effort – Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and the modest legislation to encourage single family homeowners to build more granny flats and backyard cottages (generally called accessory dwelling units or ADUs).


MHA is simple in concept: to gain more development capacity, developers must provide affordable housing units within new buildings or contribute to a city fund to build affordable housing. The result in either case is more affordable housing. MHA is already in place in Downtown, South Lake Union and four other neighborhoods throughout the city and raised more than $13 million last year to create affordable housing. Putting it in place citywide will provide even more desperately needed affordable units in our city. Consider that had MHA been in place last year, we could have raised another $87 million worth of affordable housing – $100 million total, without needing to raise taxes.


The Times Editorial Board’s alarmist contention that “Upzones are happening not just in urban villages, where high-density growth should occur, but also in single-family neighborhoods,” is misleading. An important distinction is that “citywide” does not mean that every block of every neighborhood would be expected to have a high-rise on it. In fact, only 6% of all single-family neighborhoods, which already comprise three-quarters of land for housing, would be affected by MHA.


We also take issue with the Times characterizing legislation for granny flats and backyard cottages as another “punch” to homeowners. Instead of hurting homeowners, it offers them greater flexibility by allowing them to build two granny flats or a granny flat and a backyard cottage – currently only one or the other is allowed—in addition to making modest changes to off-street parking requirements, adjusting size guidelines for backyard cottages, and reducing the requirement that the homeowner live in one of the units. Both Portland and Vancouver, BC passed virtually identical legislation– and the result is more units were built with no adverse impact to parking or neighborhood character.  In fact, a study in both cities demonstrated that the majority of ADUs are rented at below market rates, making granny flats and backyard cottages yet another form of affordable housing provided at no expense to the public.


It’s time to move past divisive rhetoric that paints proponents of these changes as developers and “special interest groups” pitted against “dozens of neighborhood and community groups.” Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, both policies have broad support from neighborhood groups, grassroots coalitions and concerned homeowners and renters alike who recognize that to address the severity of our housing crisis, we need changes to the status quo. After more than two years of Seattle process, it’s time to move forward.

Take Action:


Marilyn Strickland is the President and CEO of Seattle Chamber and former Mayor of Tacoma

Nicole Grant is Executive Secretary-Treasurer of MLK Labor, the central body of labor organizations in King County.

Faith Li Pettis served as co-chair of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee.