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The Definition of Affordability
1. The Puget Sound Regional Council recently released the list of transportation projects it's recommending for funding throughout the region between 2013 and 2016. The list includes a cycletrack on Westlake, lots of road repairs, sidewalks and school speed zone enforcement, Safe Routes to School projects, streetcar and monorail maintenance, and much more.
Check out the full list of projects on this handymap at the PSRC's web site.
2. Anti-choice and anti-gay marriage Democrat John Connelly who's challenging Tacoma state Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D-27, Tacoma), has raised $645,000 compared to Darnielle's $182,000. However, a stunning 88 percent of Connelly's take comes from his own pocket.
Public Disclosure Commission records show that Connelly has contributed $571,000 of his own cash to his campaign; just $64,000 comes from other contributors. He's already spent nearly $500,000—most of it on mailers and consulting.
3. Erica will be on the Seattle Channel's (Cable channel 21 or online) "City Inside/Out" tonight at 7, talking about the upcoming elections with host Brian Callanan, KVI's John Carlson, the Seattle Times' Lynne Varner, and KUOW's Deborah Wong.
4. If you haven't had a chance yet, check out Josh's feature on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee in this month's Seattle Met, where he answers the question: How did Inslee engineer his improbable turnaround?
5. The city auditor, who audited the city's Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE) program at council member Nick Licata's request, has issued 19 recommendations to improve the program, which grants a temporary property tax exemption to property owners who keep a certain percentage of that housing affordable.
Some background: Between 2008, when the definition of "affordability" was upped to include people making between 80 and 90 percent of Seattle median income (previously, the range was between 65 and 70 percent), and January of this year, the program has resulted in about $150 million in tax exemptions over 12 years (about $37 million of that after 2011, when the definition of "affordability" was shifted down again).
Among other changes, the auditor recommended that the city:
• Do more to make sure affordable units are actually being rented to lower-income people by doing frequent income checks and improving income documentation;
• Consider limiting the number of areas where MFTE housing can be built to the parts of the city where little or no MFTE housing has been built; and
• Eliminate requirements that "do not serve to advance the programs goals," such as the requirement that different sized units qualify under different affordability levels.
... Plus a lot of suggested administrative and reporting improvements to deal with technical and compliance issues.
The audit, of course, doesn't address the concerns of housing advocates who say the basic premise of the program---providing tax credits for developers who build housing affordable to people making $50,000 a year or more. (An "affordable" one-bedroom apartment for someone who makes 80 percent of median income, or $47,950 for a household of one, is $1,199.)
In an email, low-income housing advocate John Fox said apartments like that are "hundreds of dollars above what low income people or even the average worker in Seattle can afford."
Arguing that many of the areas where MFTE projects have been built are already booming---in many cases with new apartments renting at rates close to the "affordable" rate that gets MFTE developers a tax break---Fox said, "In nearly every project we surveyed, the rents even on the units 'set aside' that are supposed to be 'affordable' and 'low income' were priced above average rents and going rate within these communities where the project was built."
The council will take a closer look at the audit at its briefings meeting Monday morning.
- First Look: Chef Jason Stratton's Aragona
- This Week in Restaurant News: Big Openings and Big News
- An Eater’s Guide to the Malls
- Update: Zara Seattle
- Murray Announces More Top Hires
- 5 Reasons to Get Excited About Joey Kitchen
- Behind the Scenes: Seattle Designer Reina Acab of Le Notre
- Four Observations About Today's Murray Announcement
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