Beacon Pacific Village, a 160-home affordable housing project under construction, will be offering two tours during Affordable Housing Week. This rendering shows the amenities and spectacular view residents will enjoy. (Weber Thompson)

Nonprofit builders and advocates are stressing the importance of Comprehensive Plan updates allowing dense multifamily housing in more places.

Next week, advocates and affordable housing industry professionals are celebrating King County’s ninth annual Affordable Housing Week. The Housing Development Consortium (HDC), which represents dozens of nonprofit homebuilders and partners, is throwing the event, which kicks off Monday morning with a key note with Dr. Jenny Scheutz, an author and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Among the participants will be King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who chairs the County’s affordable housing committee and is fresh off taking a victory lap at a recent East Link opening ceremony, which she shepherded to fruition as a board member at Sound Transit and chair of the influential systems expansion committee.

“Join me at 9:00am on Monday, May 13 at Seattle City Hall for an exciting and informative kick-off event and check out the full slate of Affordable Housing Week events,” Balducci wrote in her newsletter. “Together, we can build momentum for investments and policies that will make King County more affordable and welcoming to people at all income levels.”

Scheutz has long written about housing, but her book should be especially relevant to King County as cities contemplated zoning changes to encourage more housing production to alleviate a long-festering housing affordability crisis.

“As cities undergo their Comprehensive Plan Updates in 2024, it is imperative that local jurisdictions implement appropriate growth strategies to address the housing challenges that our communities face,” HDC wrote on its event page. “Dr. Jenny Scheutz, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and expert in urban economics and housing policy, will deliver a keynote speech. Her book Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems, is particularly relevant in the Comprehensive Plan Update landscape and offers a roadmap for addressing systemic problems and building political coalitions to create a more equitable and healthy nation.”

Jesse Simpson, who is Government Relations and Policy Manager at HDC and also a board member at The Urbanist, underscored the point about comprehensive plan updates and encouraged people to sign on to Complete Communities Coalition letter urging improvements to Seattle’s growth strategy — which The Urbanist has signed on to as an organization. The comment period for the Mayor’s draft growth plan has conveniently been extended to May 20 after affordable housing week closes. [Note: The Urbanist’s advocacy staff and volunteers participate in coalitions and advocacy letters independently of our editorial team.]

King County’s Affordable Housing Week kicks off on May 13. (Housing Development Consortium)

Simpson said the week is about pushing all cities in the county to do more to promote housing creation at all income levels.

“HDC, through the Eastside Affordable Housing Coalition and our work with the Eastside Housing Roundtable, has been very involved in comprehensive plan updates in East King and Bellevue in particular, advocating for many of the same high-level land use reforms that we’re pushing for in Seattle: more transit-oriented development, more allowances for middle housing,” Simpson told The Urbanist.

Additionally, Pierce County is the midst of their own affordable housing week this week.

Balducci noted the variety of events that HDC and friends put on: “Each year, we observe Affordable Housing Week to highlight the vital role affordable housing plays in creating safe, stable communities. This year, join the Housing Development Consortium and their partners for educational events like the Coalition for More Housing Choices’ roundtable discussion about implementing middle housing, opportunities to connect like the Black Home Initiative community happy hour, and tours like Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority’s Beacon Pacific Village.”

The week is also about celebrating successes and progress, with tours of affordable housing projects under construction like the Beacon Pacific Village, LIHI’s Good Shepherd complex in the Central District, and a groundbreaking St. Luke’s mixed-income project in Ballard.

Architectural rendering of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Affordable Housing Project. (VIA – A Perkins Eastman Studio)

“I think it’s important to recognize what cities are doing right and what we are doing right,” Simpson said. “It is certainly not easy as you’re getting caught in doom and gloom; at the same time, Seattle has stood out among its coastal tech city peers in terms of actually building housing at a fairly fast rate and has been a leader in terms of investing in affordable housing through the housing levy over decades. So there’s definitely things we’re doing right.”

Also on the Affordable Housing Week calendar is The Urbanist’s monthly social hour at Stoup Capitol Hill from 5:30 to 7:30pm Thursday, May 16. The Black Home Initiative is also hosting a social hour at Métier Brewing at 5pm Tuesday. There’s also lunch and learns, roundtables, mixers, and trainings.

“It’s a great opportunity for combination of building tours, trainings for people who are in the affordable housing sector, as well as interested community members to learn more,” Simpson said. “Also, there’s many opportunities to connect with like-minded advocates, and I definitely encourage people to check out the event calendar just for for anything that seems interesting.”

Peruse the full calendar of events and register to save your spot.

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.