The Need for Social Housing in Seattle

Seattle trails international peer cities in its social housing stock, but there are steps city leaders can take to produce more units and increase affordability.

March 3, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Brick Apartments

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

Doug Trumm reports on Seattle's limited progress in creating more social housing, defined as "several forms of affordable housing including public housing, nonprofit housing, and rent-restricted homes in market-rate buildings offered via incentive programs like inclusionary zoning." Trumm points to peer cities around the world where social housing is a major part of housing policy. Singapore's social housing comprises 80% of housing stock; in Vienna, that number is 60%. Famously expensive Paris is on track to have 30% social housing by 2030. In Seattle, social housing comprises just 8.6% of housing stock, a number not projected to increase much.

Building more social housing, Trumm argues, " would combat displacement and shrink commutes for working class people, who keep the city functioning and culturally vibrant," and "engender mixed-income neighborhoods rather than Seattle slipping into a one-class city of the rich." This sentiment is echoed by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, whose statement that "everyone should have the possibility to live in Paris" has guided city policy during her administration.

According to Trumm, Seattle has the opportunity to build more social housing through the Seattle Housing Levy, the city's Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program, and a variety of tax programs aimed at promoting housing density and producing revenue for housing projects. "The benefits of social housing are significant and setting an ambitious social housing target isn’t about bragging rights. It’s about making Seattle a better city and increasing quality of life for all people, not just the rich." Once freed from excessive rent burdens, Trumm writes, "working class folks would pump money into the economy, invest in education, business ventures, cultural creation, and their personal wellbeing."

Monday, February 22, 2021 in The Urbanist

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

Complete Street Vancouver

Study: Most of Vancouver Is a ‘15-Minute City’

A large majority of Vancouver residents can access a grocery store in 15 minutes or less by bicycle or on foot.

May 20 - Vancouver Sun

Montreal, Quebec

Urban Design, Transport, and Health

The Lancet medical journal published a series of articles that explore how to evaluate and guide urban planning decisions to create healthy and sustainable cities. Live long and prosper!

May 20 - The Lancet - Urban Design, Transport, and Health

MoGo Bikeshare Bikes

Detroit Bike Share Celebrates Five Years

In its five years of operation, Detroit’s MoGo bikeshare has added electric and adaptive bikes to its fleet of more than 600 bikes.

May 20 - MoGo

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.