Photo by Milkovi
Photo by Milkovi

Homeless crisis

How the lack of affordable housing is forcing people to the streets.

The homeless crisis is something that I’ve been experiencing since my first visit to the United States. Here, in Seattle, there is a big problem specially in downtown. Almost at every corner you can see a group of homeless people just hanging out. It’s really sad…

The biggest problem in this city is the real state boom. Seattle is considered the fastest growing city in America, there are a lot of big tech companies establishing offices around the city. This translates in hundreds of people moving here, and the need of more housing. Almost all the city has been upzone in the last years. The plan is to create more dense urban cores, as well as more affordable housing, but is that really happening?

What is really happening is that the savvy developers are getting the housing control. They are buying properties where people with lower income live, tearing it down and building a new whole apartment building. So yeah, they are getting more density but it’s far to be an affordable option for a lot of people.

Hundreds of residents are being forced to leave their houses because they can not longer pay the rent. There are shelters and programs focus on relocated them, but it doesn’t seem to be really effective. There is a lack of funding for this affordable or low income housing. Even though, the city now has zones designated for MHA (Mandatory Housing Affordability). These areas can have a high, medium or low fee. Depending on the size of the project , you have either to provide a percentage of the units for rent to people with low income, or pay a fee based on the gross floor area of the project.

Most of the developers prefer to pay that fee instead of loosing the profit of some of the units. So then the city is getting funding for new affordable housing projects, right ? The reality is that everyday there are more homeless camps and less affordable housing. Nobody seems to have a solution or at least a good proposal to put an end to the big housing crisis that the city of Seattle is experiencing in the last years.

Maria O'Connor


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