Income dispersal: The intent of the Office of Housing siting policies

UPDATE: When this post was written I was unaware that the DESC Delridge site does not currently meet the siting policy. That information has come out through a subsequent public information request. I simply intended for this post to draw the Office of Housing’s attention to the presence of high levels of extreme poverty in this area of Delridge prior to funding decisions.

I believe the intent of the Housing Element of the Consolidated Plan, as implemented by the Office of Housing, is to ensure that neighborhoods throughout the city all contain a mix of low income and higher income housing. As the Office of Housing Policies state:

Geographic dispersion of very‐low income housing throughout the city is encouraged. Mixed‐income housing (housing serving low‐income households with incomes above 50% of median income) is encouraged in underdeveloped areas in the city where higher percentages of low‐income residents or housing exist.

While Rick Hooper of the Office of Housing indicated at the last meeting that the DESC project proposed for Delridge meets the requirements of the siting policy, I do not believe it meets the intent of the Consolidated Plan, which is to avoid the concentration of very low income housing.

The mechanisms of the siting policy restrict the number of subsidized rental housing units for extremely low-income households (defined as less than 30% AMI) to no more than 20% of the total number of housing units in the area.

Unless the Director waives the siting policy as stated below, OH will not fund, or certify as consistent with this Consolidated Plan, a project if the proposed number of subsidized rental housing units for extremely low‐income households would exceed the capacity for additional subsidized rental housing units for extremely low‐income households in the Census block group where the proposed project is located.

Capacity for additional subsidized rental housing units for extremely low‐income households is defined as:

  • The total number of housing units in the Census block group according to the latest information as updated annually by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), multiplied by 20%;
  • Less the number of existing subsidized rental housing units for extremely low‐income households in the Census block group according to the latest report available from OH (OH’s inventory of subsidized rental housing in Seattle includes projects with capital subsidies from public agencies; i.e. City‐funded projects as well as non‐City funded projects as reported periodically by county, state and federal agencies).

This mechanism does not take into account the existence of significant numbers of extremely low income households in this area of Delridge that do not appear to be part of the pool of subsidized housing. Thus it is not a good indicator of the capacity of the neighborhood to support more extremely low income households.

The policies also indicate a desire to place housing such as the DESC project in neighborhoods with amenities.

One goal is to ensure that housing for Seattle’s lowest‐income and most vulnerable populations is available throughout the City, including in our most amenity‐rich neighborhoods in terms of transit, schools, parks and retail.

Delridge does not in my mind provide the type of amenity-rich environment that is envisioned in this goal.

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