In brief: Microsoft announced the creation of a fund that it plans to use to make loans to developers of affordable and workforce housing across King County; the state legislature's 2019 legislative session got underway in Olympia; Mayor Durkan decided to move forward with building a downtown streetcar line; and the region's commuters made it through the first week of Viadoom without any major issues.
Sunday, January 13th - Saturday, January 19th, 2019
Image from The Seattle Times / Microsoft
Last Week in Seattle
Microsoft gets into affordable housing construction loans:
  • Microsoft committed $500 million to create a fund that they'll use to make loans to developers of affordable housing and workforce housing across King County, reinvesting the "small profit" they receive from those loans back into the fund. 
  • Because Microsoft's profit targets will be lower than those of most sources for commercial real estate loans, the fund will lower the financing costs for projects that make use of it, allowing those developers in turn to pass on lower rents to their tenants (for a deep dive on how affordable housing and workforce housing projects get put together, see David Kroman's excellent primer on the subject from 2015).
  • If the money were put entirely into financing projects directly, it would cover the initial construction costs for about 1,000 units, which was exactly the intention of a $500 million investment in workforce housing in Seattle by a local developer and their investment-firm partner in 2017.
  • Microsoft's fund, however, will be modeled after a housing-loan program in Silicon Valley that makes small loans to a large number of projects, allowing it to have a smaller impact on a larger number of units. 
  • As part of the announcement Microsoft also committed to lobby state and local governments to make new multifamily housing easier to build and require developers of market-rate housing to pay for affordable housing, too, similar to what the City of Seattle has already done through its Mandatory Housing Affordability program.
  • The initiative grew out of a discussion among the business community following the death of the head tax last year about how they could be more involved in addressing the region's housing affordability crisis, and presumably also how they could get out in front of future attempts to raise taxes on businesses. 
  • GeekWire's Monica Nickelsburg had an excellent Q&A with Microsoft President Brad Smith following the announcement, in which she asked him directly if raising new revenue to fund affordable housing should be part of the region's homelessness response. His answer, tellingly, was that government needs to spend more money on affordable housing, but that he thinks it can and should do that without raising any new revenue, presumably by making cuts elsewhere.
The housing affordability crisis:
  • Vianna Davila at The Seattle Times looked at the case of a woman who's being evicted over $2 in past-due rent, and at efforts by state Rep. Nicole Macri to change state laws to give tenants more options in cases like this.
  • As construction crews get ready for the destruction of the viaduct, people experiencing homelessness who have been living in tent encampments underneath it are having to find new places to go.
  • Crime rates in SoDo and Georgetown were up 31% from 2017 to 2018, vs. a 1% increase citywide, driven largely by increased property crimes, with many victims being either local businesses or members of the neighborhoods' burgeoning and vulnerable homeless population. 
  • The City Council was briefed on a report looking at what a regional governance structure for the combined human services departments of Seattle and King County could look like.
  • And a group of seniors who live in a mobile home park in northeast Seattle that's about to be redeveloped appealed to the City Council to stop the redevelopment of the land by its new owner.
Viadoom, week 1: Meanwhile, in Olympia:
  • The 2019 legislative session started on Monday with the swearing-in of the state legislature's newest members; it's scheduled to last through April 28th. 
  • Just before the start of the session, Democratic state Senator Kevin Ranker resigned from the legislature after a former legislative aide of his went public last month with the story of his sexual harassment and intimidation of her.  
  • According to Democratic leaders, this year's batch of legislators is the most diverse in the state's history.
  • Democrats have big majorities in both the House and the Senate this year and an ambitious legislative agenda to match, including a slate of affordable housing bills, increased mental health funding, expanded early childhood education, several environmental initiatives, and potentially a state capital gains tax. 
  • Governor Inslee gave his annual State of the State speech, which focused mostly on his relatively moderate climate change policy proposals for this session, and announced plans to increase funding for a need-based state program that provides financial aid to college students. 
Local impacts of the government shutdown:
  • Most federal workers, including many in the Seattle area, missed their paychecks for the first time since the shutdown started, leading a group of local banks to put together a special short-term loan program for federal employees.
  • Federal SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) for February are being paid out now to avoid any service interruptions due to the shutdown, but because that means there won't be any payments at all in February, state officials are concerned that many families won't be able to make their benefits last through the end of next month. 
  • Food banks, which have already seen a huge increase in the number of people who use their services because of the housing affordability crisis, are now seeing an uptick in unpaid federal workers, and they're concerned that if the shutdown continues and funding for SNAP stalls, they may be overwhelmed by the resulting increase in demand. 
  • Washington state's preparedness for this summer's wildfire season is being jeopardized, because firefighters aren't being certified and trained and controlled burns and other forest-thinning measures are on hold during the shutdown.
  • And there are many potential long-term issues affecting our state's national parks, which are operating with no supervision or staffing during the shutdown.
Election Watch 2019:
  • Kshama Sawant officially announced that she's running for re-election for her District 3 City Council seat.
  • Bicycling advocate and community organizer Phyllis Porter joined the open race in District 2 to replace Council President Bruce Harrell, who's retiring at the end of the year. 
  • Conservative initiative maven Tim Eyman's anti-light-rail-and-transit measure, I-976, has been certified and will be on the November ballot (unless the legislature circumvents the initiative process by passing it in its current form, which is very unlikely).
  • And Eli Sanders reported that Google is still selling political ads in Washington state, despite saying that they'd put a stop to the practice last year in order to avoid complying with state disclosure laws surrounding political ads. 
Real Estate Corner
With 2019 property tax notices set to go out in mid-February, Mike Rosenberg at The Seattle Times looked at the complicated and counter-intuitive process through which property taxes are calculated for homeowners in King County.

The City Council is in the midst of looking at block-by-block changes to their citywide Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning updates, with future committee meetings scheduled for February 8th and 25th, and a public hearing at City Hall on February 21st. 

The UW released an online mapping tool (link here) that shows exposure to various environmental health risks by census tract, with the most at-risk neighborhoods in Western Washington located in south Seattle. 

Levi Pulkkinen looked at the newly redeveloped Yesler Terrace through the eyes of some of its longtime residents who still live there, post-redevelopment. 

Seattle still has more construction cranes than any other city in America, including Los Angeles and New York (we have 59; L.A. has 44, and NYC has 28)--despite the fact that rental rates for high-end apartments have more or less flatlined recently, developers are still continuing to build record numbers of new rental housing every year.

KUOW's Deborah Wang and Caroline Chamberlain Gomez looked into the history of Seattle's houseboat community

And Curbed Seattle's Sarah Anne Lloyd looked at what $1300/month will rent you right now in Seattle and south King County. 
Thank you to everyone who's sent me a real estate referral or used me as an agent yourself! The city of Seattle is my geographic area of expertise, and while I'm also very good at helping sellers get top dollar for their homes, my true passion is helping first-time homebuyers get homes that they love quickly and easily.

f you need a residential real estate agent to help you buy or sell a home of any kind--or you know someone who does--I'd love to be of service. My website is here, or see here for client reviews. 
Quick Takes
After putting the project on hold 9 months ago, Mayor Durkan announced that she'll be moving forward with the Center City Connector streetcar line, which will run through downtown and connect the South Lake Union and First Hill lines--but its opening date has been pushed back from 2020 to 2025. [Seattle Times]

Mayor Durkan nominated the current Chief Information Officer for the City of Ottawa, Saad Bashir, to be Seattle's next Chief Technology Officer. [GeekWire]

Eli Sanders looked at what Seattle's two representatives in Congress, Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal, are doing to take on President Trump. [The Stranger]

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Washington state's infrastructure a C, slightly ahead of the national average of D+. [Seattle Times]

Lisa Stiffler looked at the 20th anniversary of HistoryLink, a local online encyclopedia dedicated to Washington state history. [GeekWire]

King County had the third-largest increase in foreign-born residents of any county in America between 2010 and 2017, and 24% of the residents of the county are now immigrants or refugees. [Seattle Times]

Melissa Hellmann looked at a new law that was passed last year to begin to address the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered indigenous women in Washington state. [Seattle Weekly]

Immigrant rights supporters rallied against the Trump administration's plans to deport Vietnamese refugees who fled the country before 1995, when the two countries re-established diplomatic ties. [The Seattle Globalist]

Former congressman Dave Reichert announced that he's joined a local lobbying firm. [Seattle Times]

Washington state's greenhouse gas emissions were up 6.1% from 2012-2015, but still below their 2000 levels. [Seattle Times]

And Seattle Public Schools released their draft version of their new strategic plan. [Seattle Times]
Upcoming events this week
Tomorrow: MLK Day rally & march

1/22, 8 - 9:30 pm: Salon of Shame #88 [rush tickets available at the door]

1/23, 7:00 pm: A Wake for the Seattle Viaduct

1/24 - 2/9: Children's Film Festival Seattle 2019

Sol Villarreal
Broker, Windermere Real Estate
Sol's Civic Minute: What's happening in Seattle, in 60 seconds per week.
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Windermere Real Estate Co.
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