Can City Council help us retain Affordable Housing?


March 2002: Andrew phones Janeen Smith (Office of Housing): they no longer think that the Property Tax Exemption Program for Multifamily Housing will work to retain affordability in our rapidly developing neighborhood.

He writes to the City Council to ask for help and advice. He wrote to the Housing and Neighborhoods committees (seemed reasonable from their titles) and learnt that the Land Use Committee was more appropriate!

To: <>, <>, <>, <>, <>

[I write to you as members of the Housing and Neighborhoods committees]

You may recall that I wrote to you last year, advocating the introduction of the the City's Property Tax Exemption Program for Multifamily Housing in the Madison-Miller Urban Village. I'm writing again to enlist your help in our efforts to preserve affordability in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

(see for details).

I seized upon the program as an excellent way to bring affordable housing into the several large residential/commercial developments that are finally starting to happen in this very undeveloped stretch of East Madison Street.

As you may recall, the area is already very well served with low income housing ( 0 - 60 % of median income), thanks to the wonderful efforts of the Capitol Hill Housing Improvement Program. It's clear that redevelopment is happening in our neighborhood and it's clear that most of it is pretty upscale (see: ). I was very concerned that the future of our neighborhood was to be an awkward mix of the very poor and the very rich.

I was therefore overjoyed to learn of the Property Tax Exemption Program for Multifamily Housing: it seemed an ideal way to piggy-back on the building boom and to generate some housing for those in the 60-80% median income range.

Last Summer several members of the Office of Housing met with me, and advised me to wait until this year to make my case with the City Council: they said they were going to review the program and then recommend that several urban villages join the program.

I learn today from Janeen Smith (Office of Housing) that their review of the program has led them to conclude that the program is ineffective as a way to generate affordable housing. The program [if it is continued] will concentrate on its other goal of stimulating growth.

The marketplace is now stimulating growth in our neighborhood, but will not preserve affordability. It is essential that we act now to preserve the wonderful diversity of this eclectic neighborhood.

But how? Without the Property Tax Exemption Program I cannot think how to proceed.

I invite you, nay plead with you, to help us figure out how to preserve our neighborhood.

Many thanks.

Andrew Taylor
Co-chair, Miller Park Neighborhood Association
330 - 19th Ave E. (206) 323-5929 (home)
Seattle WA 98112 (206) 667-4431 (work)

Thanks, Andrew. I agree with you that this is a priority. The core problem with the tax exemption is that if you design it loosely (as it was first proposed), it is not necessarily effective in producing new units, while if you draw it tightly (as it is in its second incarnation), no one uses it. Whether we can design something in between is uncertain.

I will recommend to Councilmember Nicastro that we look at other tools that might be helpful to Madison-Miller, and very much appreciate your continued dedication and commitment on this issue.

Richard Conlin
600 Fourth Avenue, 11th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 684-8805

Dear Mr. Taylor:

Thank you for writing to me and my colleagues regarding housing issues in Miller Park. While most housing issues are handled by Councilmember Judy Nicastro, who chairs the Land Use Committee, I am happy to discuss this issue further when I meet with the Miller Park Neighborhood Association on May 2nd. I think it would be an excellent forum for this issue. I appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful letter, and wanted to acknowledge my receipt of it. I look forward to meeting you again on May 2nd.

Best Regards,
Jim Compton

Dear Mr. Taylor,

Thank-you for writing Council President Steinbrueck. After four years as Chairperson of the Housing, Human Services, Education, and Civil Rights Committee, Peter stepped down from the Committee to Chair the Parks, Education and Libraries Committee.

Though you did email Councilmember McIver, the new Chairperson of the Housing Committee, I will reiterate your concern to his staff. Peter is a strong supporter of affordable housing. We will be following this matter.

Thank-you for writing Council President Steinbrueck!

Neil Powers
Legislative Assistant to-
Peter Steinbrueck
Council President