Local governments working to promote housing development

PSRC survey shows growing use of incentives and tools

Local governments in the region are doing more than ever to promote housing development, according to a recent PSRC survey.

Housing affordability and access continue to be major challenges in central Puget Sound communities. For many households, housing costs are a greater burden today than a decade ago. Renters, especially renters of color, have a hard time finding housing they can afford.

As an early VISION 2050 implementation effort, PSRC surveyed local jurisdictions to learn how they use regulatory incentives and tools to promote housing development and affordability.

Among the findings:

Housing survey list of incentives and housing types

Local governments are doing more to promote housing development

Over two-thirds of local jurisdictions surveyed have at least one incentive to promote housing development and/or affordability. The vast majority – 93% – of jurisdictions surveyed have zoning that allows housing types other than detached single-family.

Implementation of housing tools is uneven

The survey demonstrated that local abilities to adopt tools to address housing affordability varies significantly among jurisdictions. Critical areas and market factors can also limit where and how market-based tools and incentives are adopted.

Mandatory, locally calibrated tools are most effective

All tools surveyed have had success to some degree, but jurisdictions said that mandatory tools are more effective in creating new, more deeply subsidized affordable housing than voluntary tools.

Many cities are planning to grow up

One-third of local jurisdictions surveyed (24) have zoning that allows multi-family high rises – residential buildings with seven floors or more. Nearly three-quarters of the region’s Metro and Core cities surveyed – places planning to accommodate a large portion of future population growth – allow high-rise development.

Use of the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption has grown over the past decade

Over one-third of jurisdictions surveyed (26) have adopted the Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE). This is the largest increase in adoption of any of the surveyed incentives – only 10 of the surveyed jurisdictions used MFTE in 2009. MFTE is among the most successful tools, producing the highest number of  new housing units of the incentives used by survey respondents.

Displacement is an increasingly important part of local housing conversations

As costs rise, displacement of current residents is a concern. Nearly one in three jurisdictions surveyed has one or more displacement mitigation tools in place. Many communities said they need more resources and technical assistance to address displacement.

The 2019 Housing Incentives and Tools Survey helps establish a baseline of local policy implementation, highlights strengths and gaps in housing tools and incentives, and can inform upcoming housing work.

To read the full report on the survey, or view other PSRC housing resources, please visit www.psrc.org/housing.