Mayor Durkan’s Legislation to Address the Displacement of Longtime Seattle Residents and Create A More Affordable Seattle in Council Committee Today

Seattle (May 16, 2019) – Following her February announcement establishing her Executive Order addressing displacement, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan formally transmitted legislation establishing Community Preference, which will allow housing developers to give priority access to a portion of housing units to people who work in the neighborhood, or who formerly lived in a neighborhood and have experienced displacement. The legislation will be heard in the Housing, Health, Energy, and Worker’s Rights City Council committee, today. 

“Far too many of our neighbors have been forced out of Seattle and communities of color have been displaced at shocking rates,” said Mayor Durkan. “We must use every tool available to protect our marginalized communities from the negative impacts of gentrification and displacement. By working with community, we can develop innovative ways to keep families rooted in the neighborhoods that they have called home for decades.” 

“Rising rents driven by high-income earners migrating to the City have accelerated displacement and changed the character and culture of our neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle/South Park) “In high displacement risk neighborhoods like District 1’s South Park and Westwood/Highland Park, communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, and people living on low-incomes can lose out on the opportunity Seattle has to offer when new, expensive development pushes them out of the vibrant neighborhoods that they helped create.”  

“Past public policies that overtly excluded communities of color in our housing and zoning systems have resulted in the present day displacement pressures these same communities are currently facing. We need policies that proactively work to right these historic wrongs,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “Community Preference will enable affordable housing providers to prioritize those with historic connections to the communities that have been most harmed by this legacy of discrimination and segregation. This important anti-displacement strategy will support greater self-determination and community resilience by providing opportunities for folks to stay in—or return to—the neighborhoods where they have longtime social, cultural, faith and family ties.” 

Hearing the call for increased access to more affordable housing from Seattle’s marginalized communities at high-risk displacement, Mayor Durkan directed City departments to develop strategies to mitigate the effects of displacement and further housing development throughout the city. In turn, and through extensive community engagement, the Office of Housing has restructured policy funding priorities of the 2016 Housing Levy’s Administrative and Financial (A&F) plan.  

The Community Preference policy will only be applied in areas at high-risk of displacement. Seattle’s Office of Housing is actively working with Seattle Office of Civil Rights, community members and housing providers with projects under development to develop guidelines needed to apply preference on a project-by-project basis. In order to comply with federal fair housing law, developers must demonstrate tenant selection processes do not perpetuate segregation and do not disadvantage a protected class. Projects will conduct lotteries in accordance with the policy to select residents for preference units. Although not required, developers have the option of using the community preference approach to address displacement. 

In addition to the Community Preference policy, Mayor Durkan’s legislation further addresses displacement with continued financing for property acquisition and preservation, the development of policies for homeownership on publicly owned sites, and expanding the City’s home repair program for low income homeowners.   

In her February Executive Order, Mayor Durkan announced four central areas for strategic development of policies to mitigate the effects of residential displacement: 

  • Update and enhance policies and programs administered by the Office of Housing to promote low-income and marginalized communities access to opportunity to help prevent displacement. 
  • Advocacy at the Washington State Legislature for additional resources and tools for anti-displacement efforts and more affordable housing. 
  • Support of the City’s Equitable Development Initiative, which invests in Seattle’s existing community members and businesses in high displacement risk neighborhoods. 
  • Creating a Citywide cross-departmental workplan to look comprehensively at how residential anti-displacement efforts, which include regulations, tenant protections, incentives, and funding can work together to increase affordability and mitigate displacement. 

Under Mayor Durkan, the City has made significant and historic, investments to provide affordable housing for Seattle’s low- and middle-income communities. Since December 2017, and along with our city, state, and federal partners, Mayor Durkan has announced more than $710 million to fund development of affordable homes. City investments will help build more than 3,600 new, low-income homes by 2022. In January 2018, Mayor Durkan established the Affordable Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council, to address the growing need of housing options for middle-income wage earners, including teachers, firefighters, and police, who have been priced out of the city. In March, Mayor Durkan signed legislation implementing the citywide expansion of Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) that will produce 6,000 affordable homes throughout the city within 10 years.