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Seattle ‘not using all the tools in kit’ to solve housing crisis

Seattle's housing crisis continues to escalate. (Shawn Henning, Flickr Creative Commons)

As the price of finding a home in Seattle continues to skyrocket, many are looking for solutions that will keep the city’s housing crisis from continuing to escalate. As for what that solution is, the answer could be a simple one: Building more homes.

Did Seattle’s upzoning measure not go far enough?

“We’re not using all the tools in the kit if we want to improve housing affordability,” said KIRO Radio’s Mike Lewis on the Candy, Mike and Todd Show. “If you’re a believer in the idea that more housing creates better prices and you’re not a believer in say, rent control, then this is kind of what you have to do — you have to start building supply.”

That’s even after the passing of Mandatory Housing Affordability, which upzoned an additional 5 percent of Seattle. In the wake of MHA’s passing, some argued that the measure didn’t go far enough toward making Seattle more friendly to allowing multi-family construction.

In Seattle, roughly 70 percent of the city is zoned specifically for single-family housing, restricting the construction of things like apartment buildings, town home complexes, and other options that create more housing supply in a city that’s short on affordable options.

In the future, more upzoning could very well be the key to keeping the city affordable for the most possible people.

“You can’t decide ‘I want the city to stay exactly as it is,’ and yet have affordable housing,” Lewis pointed out.

In order to address that, Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda added a small item to the 2020 budget, that would require the city to look into the pros and cons of allowing what’s known as “middle housing” in any of the city’s numerous single-family zones.

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Middle housing is seen as a stepping stone for multi-family construction, allowing for things like rowhouses, duplexes, triplexes, etc. in spaces previously occupied by a single-family home. But even that’s proven to be difficult in a city that’s clung to its questionable zoning restrictions for the better part of a century.

“For people who live in Seattle neighborhoods where you have single family homes, it’s the thing that they hate,” KIRO Radio’s Candy Harper noted.

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