On Thursday, February 13th the Seattle City Council will host an all-day Seattle Workforce Housing Forum.
The City Council promises that the forum will "tackle the best ways to meet Seattle’s affordable housing needs." Specifically, the council is looking at how to implement incentive zoning—a program that provides "incentives," in the form of increased density, to developers who build housing affordable (at 30 percent of their monthly income) to people making 60 to 80 percent of the area's median income.
But is there a scarcity of housing priced at 30 percent of the monthly income of people that earn 60 to 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), housing typically referred to as "workforce housing?"
According to a comprehensive analysis of housing data conducted by King County the answer, in Seattle, is "No!" Instead, the report finds that the
Critical Need is for affordable rental housing for very-low and low-income households. While the amount of rental housing stock affordable to households earning above 60 percent of median income appears adequate, market-rate affordable rentals for those between 40 and 60 percent AMI are scarce and not well-distributed geographically.
The analysis goes on to say that
for those moderate income renters, the supply is much more than adequate in all of the sub-regions ... [and that] 38 to 42 percent of all rental units throughout the County are affordable at the moderate income level.
The City Council is poised to solve a problem that we don't have with a tool (incentive zoning) that will only make workforce housing more expensive. More fees and process would, ironically, drive up costs and prices of a housing product that is already, by the city's standard, affordable.
So what is the problem?
Many people, of all income levels, find it frustrating to find a place to live in Seattle. Seattle needs more housing!
What is the solution?
Seattle needs to allow more housing of all types in all neighborhoods, including small-lot homes, cottages, microhousing, and multifamily housing for families who need two and three bedrooms.
Even housing that is within reach of people with more money means those people won't be competing with people with fewer dollars for scarce housing. More housing means more choices, better prices, more competition between landlords for tenants—not renters competing with renters for scarce housing units.