The Seattle Office of Housing increases opportunities for families of all incomes to live in our city and provides home repair and weatherization programs. For over 30 years, the city has managed investments of tax revenue (including the 2017 Housing Levy), proceeds from developer payments, and special funding (Incentive Programs) to preserve and produce affordable apartments and homes. To date, nearly 12,000 affordable units have been funded and over 1,500 have been created through incentives. During that same time period, the city has helped over 17,000 lower-income residents with repairs and weatherization projects that helped them remain in their homes.
Affordable housing is a critical cornerstone for broader equitable community development. By supporting housing development organizations grounded in communities that have historically been harmed by institutionalized racist policies and practices, the Office of Housing continues to demonstrate its commitment to racial equity through housing justice.
As part of its administration of Levy funding, the city partners with community and non-profit organizations to execute on its affordable housing goals.
The MHA Option requires new multifamily and commercial development to include affordable homes or contribute to a city fund used for the preservation and production of low-income housing. MHA was implemented incrementally concurrent with area-wide zoning changes and modifications to the Land Use Code that increased development capacity.
In 2021, affordable housing contributions through MHA were made for 295 projects with issued building permits. This is an increase from the 224 projects making housing contributions in 2020. Comparing the last two calendar years, MHA payments increased nearly 13% ($67 million in 2020 and $75.5 million in 2021) and MHA units committed to be provided through the performance option increased nearly four times (20 MHA units in 2020 and 95 MHA units in 2021).
Some developers opted for the payment option and the total MHA payments received by the city for projects with building permits issued from inception through December 31, 2021 amount to $171.4 million. Of the total received to date, the city has awarded $159 million for low-income housing development, which is executed via partnerships with community organizations and non-profit organizations.
Incentive Zoning allows commercial and residential developers to achieve additional development capacity by providing affordable housing units (IZ Units) or making a payment to fund capital costs of producing and preserving low-income housing across Seattle. While both IZ and MHA enable developers to achieve additional development capacity, IZ is voluntary, while MHA is not. As of December 2021, 122 IZ units were either in service or under construction across the city.
Each year in April, the Office of Housing publishes a comprehensive report on the results and accomplishments of the prior year. As more data is available, we’ll provide updates and deeper dives into specific Office of Housing projects and partnerships. Below, we’ve included an overview of one project in particular that is supported by the aforementioned funds—Mercy Housing Northwest.
The mission of Mercy Housing Northwest is to create stable, vibrant, and healthy communities by developing, financing, and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors, and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.
Currently over 6,000 residents call a Mercy Housing Northwest community home. These communities can be found throughout Washington (primarily along the I-5 corridor) and Idaho.
Once residents have created a foundation of stable housing, they can focus on meeting other needs that can help them achieve their dreams. Mercy Housing Northwest provides free programs and services in several high-impact areas.
Health and wellness is supported by health navigation services, behavioral health counseling, chronic disease prevention education and cooking classes. Educational services include adult computer training, GED assistance, afterschool programming for children, and ESL instruction. Additionally, Mercy Housing Northwest promotes financial and housing stability through job readiness programming, financial literacy and lease education classes, and life skills coaching. Community engagement includes community projects, safety initiatives, voter registration and volunteer opportunities.
This is just one project of many that is supported by the funds provided by MFTE, MHA and other affordable housing programs managed by Seattle’s Office of Housing. Keep an eye out for future updates on this and other projects.