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Task Force Impact Story: Going from Global to Local in Seattle’s Housing Crisis

December 7, 2022

Task Force 2022 Solving Seattle's Housing Crisis
Jackson School Task Force 2022 Solving Seattle's Housing Crisis

What to do when Seattle, like much of the country, is facing a housing crisis? This was the question that 17 Jackson School students struggled to answer during their winter quarter 2022 capstone course in the Donald C. Hellmann Task Force Program.

In studying other major cities in the world for their Task Force topic on solving Seattle’s housing crisis, they were able to identify what works and what doesn’t. It quickly became apparent that the current preferred remedy of market liberalization through up-zoning would fail unless or until housing development was decoupled from a for-profit approach. Based on these insights, they devised a social housing policy that was tailored to the political and fiscal realities of Seattle.

View the “Solving Seattle’s Housing Crisis” report and recommendations

“The students not only exposed the inadequacy of the current policy approach but more importantly drew on their expertise in global studies to move beyond critique and offer solutions that have proven effective elsewhere in the world – namely, using a public developer model to generate affordable, quality housing for all,” said Jackson School Professor Jonathan Warren, the instructor of this Task Force.

“I found the students’ insights so relevant and timely that I continued working on articulating their core findings in a way that the debate around how to fix the housing crisis might be redirected in a more constructive direction.”

These efforts resulted in an opinion piece by Warren, published by The Seattle Times on Oct. 18, 2022, titled, “Free-market development, not lack of density, is behind housing crisis.

“If housing policy is eventually reoriented toward social housing, and it proves effective, then we will owe a large debt to the Jackson School and especially the 2022 Task Force students who identified this solution to our housing crisis,” Warren said.