by Claudia Balducci
It’s no secret we have a dramatic housing shortage in King County. This has real human consequences, leaving too many with insecure housing and contributing to an unacceptably high level of homelessness. Many people and organizations – public and private – have been working hard to tackle the problem. We’ve seen increased investment at all levels of government and from private companies, partnerships to provide affordable housing near transit, new funding sources to support subsidized housing, zoning changes to allow more housing in some areas, new regional collaborations, and much more.
But the headlines keep coming: housing costs continue to rise and COVID times have brought job loss and the risk of housing loss for many more people than before. Many thousands of families spend more than half their income on housing, leaving them just one extra expense away from homelessness. Questions should be asked: Are our efforts enough? What more must we do to ensure that people have access to the housing that they need and deserve? To understand the answers to those questions and to be sure our efforts are working, we needed to know more.
That’s why I’m excited to share that this week the Growth Management Planning Council’s Affordable Housing Committee, which I chair, released a Regional Affordable Housing Dashboard to track our county’s progress toward our goals. This new tool will help hold us all accountable to the bold and ambitious goals set by the Regional Affordable Housing Taskforce to build or preserve 44,000 affordable homes by 2024 and 244,000 homes by 2040.
The dashboard will help jurisdictions track their progress, arm housing advocates with data to make their cases, and provide the public with information to hold elected leaders accountable.
To our knowledge, no dashboard like this has ever been built. The dashboard will help jurisdictions track their respective progress, arm housing advocates with data to make their cases, and provide the public with information to hold elected leaders accountable. The dashboard’s “Jurisdictional Snapshots” section offers information about housing affordability and policy enactment by city. Additionally, a wide variety of affordable housing data— from housing policies to transit-oriented development and displacement—are available for download either as raw data or charts.
The tool itself illustrates the power, and challenge, of working together. The Affordable Housing Committee, which is composed of 19 elected, nonprofit and business leaders, provided an umbrella for the hard work it took to identify data sets, analyze the data and reach agreement on how to interpret the data. This collaboration across our county is something to celebrate.
Here’s what the dashboard tells us already:
• King County lacks an adequate supply of affordable homes for the lowest-income renters who must compete for the limited number of rental homes affordable to them in the private market. Only 27 units are affordable and available for every 100 extremely low-income households (those making between 0 and 30 percent of Area Median Income, or AMI).
- Black households are severely cost-burdened (defined as paying more than half of one’s salary for housing) at twice the rate of white households. Twenty-six percent of Black households are severely cost-burdened, as compared to 13 percent of white households.
- Our region established a goal to build or preserve 44,000 homes affordable to households with incomes at or below 50 percent of AMI between 2019 and 2024. To meet this goal, we need to create 8,800 affordable units per year; but in 2019, only 1,595 affordable units were created.
This dashboard offers a clearer picture of what we have set out to do, what we have done, and what we still need to do. But this is just a start. Future versions could include new or improved datasets, with data gleaned through jurisdictional surveys, eviction data, and more. We will focus on whether our efforts are having the positive impact on people’s lives and hold ourselves accountable if we are not. Already, county and city partners have convened a technical group to start working on the next phase of the dashboard, which will help fill in missing information and show progress over time.
The dashboard is designed to be accessible. You can learn who is most affected by our affordable housing shortage and where there is the most housing need. You can also see where we are succeeding and where we need to do more. Many partners, public and private are hard at work to create the housing we need. This dashboard will help us make sure we’re getting it right. Now with the data available with this new dashboard tool, we can better target our efforts to deliver a regional solution for the urgent affordability crisis we face.
Claudia Balducci serves as Chair of the Metropolitan King County Council, Chair of the Affordable Housing Committee of the Growth Management Planning Council, and President of the Puget Sound Regional Council