Seattle, like much of the country, is facing a housing crisis. Despite the unimaginable riches, there are not only thousands of homeless people but also more and more middle-class families that are priced out of the city due to housing costs. Ideally, the federal and state governments would be taking a lead role in tackling this crisis but this is not the case but also does not mean that cities, like Seattle, should not act. In fact, Seattle may be able to demonstrate a way forward for the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, our local political leaders seem at a loss as to how to even mitigate the crisis let alone solve it. Their proposed remedies are either vague or have proven to be ineffective in other parts of the world. Also attention is almost exclusively on homelessness even though the homeless issue is just the tip of a larger housing problem which includes:
- Young families and the middle class being displaced by a lack of affordable housing.
- Local businesses, short of workers, cutting hours and even closing, placing a drag on the economy and hardships for residents.
- Residents forced into long, expensive commutes from distant housing they can better afford, increasing pressure on air quality and climate.
- An overemphasis on quantity resulting in virtually no consideration given to quality of construction, design, community integrity, history, or livability..
The charge of this task force will be to develop a set of actionable policies at the municipal level that would offer a remedy to the housing crisis. What this means more specifically is,
- Building a sufficient supply of affordable homes that are top quality, durable, aesthetically pleasing, and energy efficient.
- Integrating below-market and market-rate homes in a welcoming, inclusive, highly livable neighborhood.
- Expanding and incorporating shared green spaces as well as other amenities such as childcare into more densified neighborhoods.
- Densifying with a respect for sustaining the historical character and charm of certain buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods.
Other cities throughout the world have been able to do this and so students in this Task Force will draw upon their global expertise to research and learn from those examples. Once a strategic plan is determined, students will then have to think through how to change various aspects of the housing industry such as the role of developers, building codes, finance, real estate, and so on in a way that generates support among these stake-holders. They will also have to consider how to nurture a shift in how the general public views housing, the market and the role of government. Such as systematic transformation is formidable but not insurmountable in a city like Seattle, which is ready to embrace a fundamentally different approach to housing if the people are persuaded that it is feasible set of policies and ones that will result in a much improved city for all its citizens.