Tackling Our Region’s Affordability Crisis

We all know we are facing an affordability crisis in King County. Rents in King County have increased 57 percent in the last six years, and home prices in King County have increased by $100,000 in just one year.

We are blessed to live in such a desirable place with thousands of new, well-paying jobs opening every year. But we can’t let people, especially the low-income and working class, fall behind. Even for the middle class, the prospect of home ownership is becoming unrealistic. As a community, we have a duty to help provide affordable housing options, no matter one’s level of income.

Last month, I attended the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force’s first meeting. The Task Force was created out of a budget proviso in our biennial budget last fall. Its members are:

– King County Executive Dow Constantine

– King County Councilmembers Claudia Balducci, Rod Dembowski, Larry Gossett, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Pete von Reichbauer

– Bellevue Mayor John Stokes

– Kenmore Mayor David Baker

– North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing

– Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

– Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson

– Renton City Councilmember Ryan McIrvin

– King County Department of Community and Human Services Director Adrienne Quinn (ex-officio member)

The Task Force’s objectives are to:

  • Asses the current state of housing affordability and the unmet need for affordable housing throughout King County, and
  • Make recommendations about regional policies or strategies that should be pursued to supplement local, state, and federal efforts to meet the identified need.

Elected officials and government employees, representatives from the nonprofit and for-profit housing industries, social and economic justice advocacy organizations, and community members shared their perspectives and priorities, and experts presented information that provided valuable context to this issue. There are many aspects to affordability we must consider, from increasing the housing supply, to investing in our transit system, to fostering economic development in areas where job growth isn’t as robust. I believe there are opportunities for progress on all of these aspects, and more.

One of the most critical pieces of housing affordability is, of course, housing supply. King County is expected to grow by nearly half a million people by 2040, and we must meet this new demand if we don’t want housing prices to continue to increase at such an alarming pace. We must work with and listen to the needs of private and nonprofit developers to encourage more supply for people across the socio-economic spectrum.

As people and entire communities are being displaced further from Seattle, the time and cost to get to work increases. We must invest in transit in communities where people are moving. We must also work to increase job opportunities in these areas, so people have a chance to work closer to where they live.

Because this is such a multi-faceted issue, the Task Force is set to meet 18 times over 18 months. However, people are in need now, and I will work to produce and implement concrete solutions as soon as possible.

All of the task force’s meetings are open to the public, and I encourage you to attend and have your voice heard in this process. You can follow the activity of the task force and learn about upcoming meetings here.

We need a holistic, regional approach to ensuring affordability, and I am optimistic that the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force will accomplish that. By convening a diverse group of perspectives and regional representatives, we have the opportunity to build a coordinated effort that will make a real difference in people’s lives.

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