Affordability and Livability

Working to increase affordable housing choices, create community spaces, and prevent displacement 
For Seattle to be a city of the future, we must work together to make it possible for families, including our most vulnerable communities, to stay in Seattle by preventing displacement and protecting our City from the negative effects of gentrification. To create affordable, inclusive neighborhoods, the City is pursuing strategies to increase the number of affordable homes available to residents of all income levels. We are improving access to frequent and reliable transit that will help connect residents to training, education, and living wage jobs without needing to worry about owning a car. Additionally, our investments in parks and open spaces support some of the incredible natural spaces that make Seattle such a wonderful place to live in the first place. 
"Too many long-time Seattle residents are getting priced out and pushed out of Seattle. We need to urgently increase the amount of affordable housing to stop the huge displacement of people and provide permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness."
-Mayor Durkan 

Provide affordable housing choices

What we track: New City regulated affordable homes coming online 2019-2023
Why is this important?
Production of rental and for-sale homes that are reserved for and affordable to low-income households is foundational to the health of the City.   A robust supply of affordable homes not only contributes to individual, family, and community stability, but also combats poverty, reduces displacement, enhances access to opportunity, and prevents households from falling into homelessness.  Affordable housing helps all Seattle residents, regardless of income, to benefit from a more economically resilient and culturally and racially diverse city. 
Hover over each bar to see the total number of affordable homes coming online each year
How we measure:
The graph above shows the inventory of existing and pending City-regulated affordable homes in Seattle. These homes result from direct investments by Seattle's Office of Housing and a mix of tax and land use incentive programs.  Several fund sources support direct investment, including the voter-approved Seattle Housing Levy, Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and Incentive Zoning payments, and other one-time contributions. Our measurements capture existing regulated housing units, deduct any expired units, and capture future units that have been awarded funding, executed an affordability agreement (IZ and MHA), or have an approved application (MFTE).  Learn more about these programs
What progress are we making?
Severe housing costs disproportionately affect People of Color and lower-income residents, especially those making 50% or less of Seattle's median income. In December 2019 the Mayor announced funding awards that will produce 1,944 new affordable apartments through 2023, and additional awards are being made in 2020.  Along with investments in homeownership and a steady stream of new market-rate projects participating in the City’s affordable housing incentive programs, the City is now on track to bring almost 6,000 new affordable homes online by 2023.  
During 2019, six new City-funded affordable rental projects (783 affordable units) opened, and as of July 2020 leasing has begun for an additional 581 City-funded units. 
Even as recently completed units open, more units enter permitting and construction phases. Incentive programs account for about 1,800 apartments that will open in the next few years. City funding awards will add over 4,000 new apartments to Seattle’s inventory of affordable homes by 2023, over half of which will serve extremely low-income households, including those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. 
An influx of new capital resources to augment the Seattle Housing Levy has enabled this level of production, including developer payments under MHA and negotiated payments from the Washington State Convention Center expansion and the sale of City-owned property in South Lake Union. The City has also continued to attract high levels of investment from non-City sources. Rental Housing Program awards of about $110 million in 2019 attracted about $500 million in other capital sources for a total investment of over $600 million.

Improve transit to support a growing city

What we track: Percentage of Seattle households that are within a 10-minute walk of frequent transit service
Why is this important?
Ensuring that people have access to robust public transportation options helps to reduce traffic, enable people to get where they need to go, and cut carbon emissions from single-occupancy vehicle trips in our City. This is why the City of Seattle is committed to providing reliable and affordable travel options  for our growing city. Our population has grown by almost 20% from 2010 to 2017. With this growth, investing in transit and transit-oriented development is more important now than ever before.
Hover over each bar to see the share of Seattle households within a 10-minute walk to frequent transit
How we measure:
Access to frequent transit is recorded, analyzed, and reported by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). SDOT estimates the number of households within a 10-minute walk from transit service that runs frequently (i.e. every 10 minutes). Seattle's goal is to have 72% of households within a 10-minute walk to frequent transit by 2025. For more information on transportation performance, see SDOT’s Seattle Transportation Benefit District Annual Report
What progress are we making?
Thanks to voter-approved investments, the percent of households within a 10-minute walk to frequent transit service more than doubled from 25% in 2015 to 51% in 2016. As services have been added and reinvestments in the transit system have been made over the last five years, additional households gained access to more frequent service. As of March 2019, 71% of Seattle households are now within a 10-minute walk to frequent transit service. We are within 1% of the City’s 2025 goal - six years early!  
The Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 (STBD) provides funding for additional bus service, allowing transit to grow in Seattle. In the first three years of the program (2015-2018) STBD added 6,780 weekly bus trips across the City, creating capacity for more than 81,000 additional daily rides. 

Provide access to parks and open space

What we track: Percentage of Seattle's homes located within a 10-minute walk of park or open space
Why is this important?
Our system of parks is key to the quality of life in our City. Open spaces bring us health, environmental, and economic benefits. They help us get to know our neighbors, and they make our neighborhoods stronger, healthier, and more resilient. They give us places to have fun, to be inspired, to socialize, and to enjoy nature. Having parks closer within walking distance of home amplifies these benefits and increases residents' exposure to these assets, whether they are enjoying them actively and intentionaly, or simply walking by a greenery.
How we measure:
The National Park Service, the Trust for Public Land, and many other major cities have defined a 10-minute walk time as the national standard for walkability. This measure is most commonly measured as the the amount of time to physically walk from home to a park or open space's entry points. For more details, see the SPR Walkability Analysis map application that Seattle Parks and Recreation recently developed.  
Recently, there has been an interest in broadening the parks and open space to include a number of different public and private organizations who own and manage public space. Places such as the Union Bay Natural Area, owned and managed by the University of Washington, Meadowbrook Pond, owned and managed by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), and the Seattle Center, all play an important role in the city's public space network.  Other contributors to Seattle parks and open space include Public Schools and Institutions, King County & WA State, private open space, City of Seattle, Port of Seattle, non-profits, and the federal government. A recent Trust for Public Land analysis, ParkScore, demonstrated that 96% of residents live within a 10 minute walk of a park or open space taking into consideration these various different property owners.  
Seattle is in the process of redefining how we calculate walkability with intentional equity considerations, such as what kinds of amenities are available, cost to enter, and hours of operation.  To learn more about this new method of calculating access, see the Outside Citywide Interactive Map Tool
What progress are we making?
Seattle ranked 11th in the United States by Trust for Public Lands ParkScore for access, acreage, amenities, and investment to parks and open space.  As density grows, Seattle will be increasingly challenged to acquire new parks and open spaces. Thus, Seattle is focused on building partnerships and finding creative solutions to increase the amount of parks and open spaces.  In the meantime, Seattle is looking to improve the parks and open spaces that currently exist. 
Seattle Parks and Recreation has $2 million per year in Park District funding through 2020 to acquire properties. this funding will be leveraged and augmented through grants, such as the King County Conservation Futures program and Washington State's Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO).
The 2017 Parks and Open Space Plan calls for acquisitions within Urban Villages to be prioritized based on the following criteria:
  • Equity and health
  • Income and poverty
  • Density
  • Opportunity
Using these criteria and extensive mapping techniques, the plan identifies 16 urban villages that are considered under-served and will be priority areas for acquiring new park land. Seattle Parks and Recreation is also investing in existing parks to make them more inviting and active. Through a public-private partnership with the Downtown Seattle Association, activities have been planned in Westlake Park and Occidental Square. We now see a greater diversity of people enjoying these parks.