Panelists Grace Kim, Casey Huang, and Faith Li Pettis at Forterra's Seed & Feed, "Affordable Housing: Stretching the Possibilities"
Photo by: Danny Ngan

5 Things We Learned About Affordable Housing

Voices from the affordable housing community including panelists Marty Kooistra, Gordon McHenry Jr., Grace Kim, Casey Huang and Faith Li Pettis, discussed the present achievements and potential of affordable housing in Seattle at “Seed & Feed: Affordable Housing, Stretching the Possibilities,” hosted by the Center for Architecture & Design.

#1: An incredible number of people can’t afford to live in Seattle.

Over 45,000 Seattle households pay more than half of their income on their housing. The graph below details market affordability by profession. Faith Li Pettis, co-chair to the City of Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, discussed market affordability, referencing that from 2014 to 2015, the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment increased by 8%.

This graph represents the market affordability by profession. Average 1 bedroom rent increased by 8% from 2014 to 2015.
Image courtesy of Faith Li Pettis

#2: Building beautiful, affordable, green housing that reflects the neighborhood’s culture is possible.

Hirabayashi Place, designed by Casey Huang, Associate Principal at Mithun, includes artwork influenced by the surrounding Japantown neighborhood, community-minded retail space that brings in a daycare run by El Centro de la Raza, and rooftop green spaces for residents to enjoy.

Hirabayashi Place in Seattle's Japantown is designed to create healthy indoor living spaces that also save energy and water; all while honoring the heritage of the area.
Image courtesy of Casey Huang

#3: People are getting creative.

As a result, Seattleites who want to live affordability are helping shift perceptions of what makes a good community. Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing brings together 9 different two and three-bedroom homes for families in the urban core of Capitol Hill. The project was designed by future resident and Founding Principal of Schemata Workshop, Grace Kim. Each family participating isn’t investing in property—they’re investing in a more intentional way of living.

Members of the Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing join together at the ground breaking of their 9 unit family-friendly cohousing.
Photo courtesy of: Grace Kim

#4. Everyone needs to be on board.

We can have the best intentions about building beautiful, community-minded, green affordable housing; but if it feels costly to taxpayers, there can be public disillusionment. We need to support these projects and create affordable homes that encompass all of these ideals.

Panelists Marty Kooistra, Gordon McHenry Jr., Grace Kim, Casey Huang, and Faith Li Pettis at Forterra's Seed & Feed, "Affordable Housing: Stretching the Possibilities"

#5: It all comes down to land.

Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing shows what can happen when land is secured early on—when the Naval Station Puget Sound was surplussed in 1995, part of the City of Seattle’s Reuse Plan was to provide 200 units of housing for people experiencing homelessness. Since 1999 Sand Point Housing has been home to more than 3,000 formerly homeless individuals. It’s not too late for Seattle or other cities in our region to secure keystone lands—and thankfully, Forterra is here to help do that.

Affordable housing is a keystone place