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How Seattle has not just encouraged rental but used a tax-relief program to reduce rents for working but low-income tenants

August 30th, 2016 · 6 Comments

Cities all around North America are struggling to figure out how to provide housing for their lower-income residents —  not the poorest of the poor, but people making less than the median income for the region. Housing for that group is disappearing and not much new is appearing. A lot of federal/state/provincial programs focus on putting money into housing at the low end.

I’ve been intrigued by Seattle ever since Hani Lamman from Cressey told me about how much rental they’re building there, and the different kinds of programs Seattle uses to reduce rental rates.

Seattle’s not doing everything perfectly. Their street homeless count is close to 3,000. There are no rent controls — renter-protection efforts are focused on making sure landlords don’t discriminate against tenants.

And American cities have advantages we don’t. Their developers never stopped building rental, the way Canadian ones did. (No one can quite seem to figure this why. We had a long debate on Twitter last night, trying to figure it out and there was no definitive conclusion.) As well, the federal government provides a big chunk of assistance through a low-income housing tax credit, which gives investors a tax break for investing in low-income housing.

But Seattle has also been pushing aggressively to create new rentals and rentals that rent for below-market prices. My story here summarizes some of what they’re doing.

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