- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an executive order to create more low- and medium-income affordable housing, especially in areas at high-risk of residential displacement and gentrification.
- The executive order focuses on four key areas:
- Creating and supporting policies to address displacement
- Requesting additional resources and tools from the state for affordable housing and combating displacement
- Supporting the city's Equitable Development Initiative, which provides investments in neighborhoods at high risk of displacement
- Creating a citywide, cross-departmental plan to comprehensively increase affordability and decrease displacement
- The first action under the executive order will be to establish a "Community Preference" policy that allows city-funded housing developers to prioritize access to affordable housing in neighborhoods that have experienced high displacement.
While gentrification has the positive effect of urban renewal, especially in low- to mid-income neighborhoods, it also carries the negative effect of pushing out citizens who have lived in those areas for a long time but no longer can afford to stay as housing prices increase. In many cases, the citizens who suffer most from this phenomenon are people of color. Durkan said in a statement that this is especially true in the communities of Rainier Beach, the Central District, Beacon Hill, and Chinatown-International District.
The Seattle area experienced rapid growth and has become a major tech hub in a short time thanks to giants like Amazon and Microsoft. But the commercial progress brought with it thousands of high salaried employees, leading to a cost-of-living spike and housing affordability issues. The city is among the hardest hit by the affordable housing crisis cropping up in urban areas throughout the country. It goes hand-in-hand with the city's rise in homeless individuals, for which the mayor and county executive at the time declared a state of emergency in 2015.
Leaders have been working to address the problem — and potentially reverse it — before it worsens. Among the measures was a business tax on the city's highest-grossing businesses that would fund low-income housing and homelessness mitigation programs. But that measure was repealed just weeks after passing due to government fears about pushback from the public and the business community. The incident illustrates leaders' difficult balancing act in trying to keep the growth-spurring business community happy while also preventing the growth from dragging down affordability and forcing people out of their homes.
The big companies that call the Seattle area home have face increased scrutiny for their role in the housing affordability crisis. Some are making contributions to help fix the problem. Last month, Microsoft pledged $500 million toward programs to boost housing affordability in the greater Seattle area.