Introduction to Seattle’s Office of Housing

Cedar Crossing Apartments sponsored by Mercy Housing and Seattle Office of Housing
Cedar Crossing in the Roosevelt District, co-sponsored by Seattle Office of Housing and Mercy Housing Northwest

Introduction to Seattle’s Office of Housing

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.

Housing Levy
Since 1981, the Housing Levy has been the cornerstone of funding for affordable housing in Seattle, creating and preserving over 14,000 affordable rental homes and over 900 homeownership opportunities throughout the city. The Housing Levy has also provided long-term and consistent operating, maintenance, and services support for over 1,300 affordable homes. Between 2017 and 2021, 447 affordable rental housing units were created, with 341 currently in process or planned. Over the past 40 years, Seattle residents have consistently supported this critical resource, with the most recent Housing Levy receiving a voter approval rate of over 70%. The 2016 Housing Levy is set to expire in 2023, yet the need for affordable homes in Seattle is greater than ever and efforts are underway to create a renewal proposal.

As part of its administration of Levy funding, the city partners with community and non-profit organizations to execute on its affordable housing goals.

Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE), Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), and Incentive Zoning (IZ)
The Multifamily Tax Exemption Program provides multifamily building owners a property tax exemption in exchange for setting aside a number of units as affordable to low- and middle-income households for up to 12 years. Participation in the MFTE program has grown steadily since its adoption by the City of Seattle in 1998. As of the end of 2021, the number of approved applications totals 332 for rental multifamily housing and 217 for homes for income-eligible buyers.

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.

Mercy Housing Northwest
Founded in 1981, Mercy Housing Inc., is a national nonprofit affordable housing organization. It has a presence in 41 states and has serves more than 150,000 people.

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.
2100 1547 SeaChange Editorial Team
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