Mayor Durkan Signs Into Law Her Plan to Renew and Expand the Multifamily Tax Exemption Program That Provides Affordable Rent to Seattle Families, Holds Swearing In Ceremony for Emily Alvarado As Director of the Office of Housing

Seattle (September 24) – Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today signed into law her plan to renew and expand the Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE) program that provides affordable rent to Seattle families and held a swearing-in ceremony for Emily Alvarado, the new permanent Director of the City’s Office of Housing.  

The MFTE program provides affordable rent, typically hundreds of dollars lower than market rate, to nearly 4,500 low- and middle-income households in private apartment buildings in neighborhoods across Seattle. The MFTE program was set to expire in December 2019, and with this renewal the program is expected to add up to 1300 new affordable homes by 2022, and also includes a new moderator to protect MFTE tenants from high rent increases.  

“Our nurses, teachers, and childcare providers are finding it more and more difficult to find affordable housing within our City. The Multifamily Tax Exemption program has been a critical tool to keep families at risk of displacement in Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan. “We need more affordable housing as quickly as possible, in every neighborhood in Seattle. I’m grateful that the City Council passed this legislation, recognizing the importance of this valuable tool as a means to keep people and families in Seattle.” 

In July, Mayor Durkan submitted legislation to renew the MFTE program as part of the launch of her Housing Seattle Now initiative. The Council voted to approve Mayor Durkan’s plan yesterday.  

Alvarado, who was nominated by Mayor Durkan earlier this month after serving as Interim Director since July, was confirmed unanimously by the City Council yesterday. For the past five years, Emily lead on policy in the Office of Housing as the Manager of Policy and Equitable Development.  

“To address our housing crisis, we must continue to create more affordable and mixed-income housing across Seattle. As we keep making new, unprecedented investments in housing, the next few years will be critical ones for the Office of Housing and all of Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan. “I know that Emily is the right person to continue leading the Office of Housing, and I applaud the members of the City Council for their unanimous vote to confirm her. Emily is passionate about creating a more affordable, inclusive Seattle for all our neighbors, and she is committed to centering racial equity and social justice. Emily’s work has been vital in helping deliver on our Housing Seattle Now initiative to make historic investments in housing for this generation and the next. Emily will also play a critical role as we work to ensure our workers and middle income families can live in Seattle.” 

“I am honored to join Mayor Durkan’s administration at a critical time for affordability in our growing city,” said Emily Alvarado. “Housing is a basic human need, but it is so much more than that. Housing is a launching pad for children’s success, it is the connection to family and cultural communities, jobs and opportunity. Affordable housing is essential urban infrastructure for an equitable and inclusive city.”  

As part of her Housing Seattle Now initiative, Mayor Durkan is proposing more than $78.2 million in new housing and anti-displacement investments in the 2020 budget, which will be funded as part of her proposal to sell the under-utilized city-owned Mercer Mega Block properties:  

  • $42.2 million to provide affordable housing and address the pressures of displacement through a strategic investment fund;   
  • $15 million to create a revolving Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) acquisition loan fund;  
  • $15 million to increase investments in permanently affordable homeownership; and,  
  • $6 million for a new financing tool to create more affordable accessory dwelling units like backyard cottages and in-law apartments for low- and middle-income homeowners.  

Other Housing Seattle Now actions include:  

  • Her Fare Share plan for a modest tax on Uber and Lyft rides to provide $52 million in affordable housing development over 5 years near high quality transit;  
  • Updated City’s tenant protections to better help residents stay in their homes, in partnership with Councilmember Lisa Herbold;  
  • Development of permanently affordable homeownership opportunities on underutilized surplus city property by transferring a site at Yakima Avenue and transmitting legislation to utilize two additional Seattle City Light sites in Northwest Seattle; and    

The Seattle Office of Housing, an executive office of the Mayor, increases opportunities for families of all incomes to live in our city. For over 30 years, the City has managed investments from the Seattle Housing Levy and incentive programs for developers to fund the preservation and production of affordable apartments and homes in Seattle. To date, over 12,000 affordable units have been funded and over 4,700 have been created through incentives. In addition over 1,050 homebuyers have purchased their first home with an affordable city-funded loan and 300 permanently affordable homeownership opportunities have been built or are under development. The Office of Housing has also provided home repair and weatherization programs for lower-income resident for over 30 years, helping over 17,000 households remain in their homes.