Seattle Publishes 2019 MFTE Rents

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News , Industry Trends ,

The Seattle Office of Housing published the 2019 maximum income and rent schedules for the various income-restricted housing programs operating within the City of Seattle limits. Schedules for the various programs can be found here

For participants in the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) program, the maximum allowable rent increased by 8.26%. 

Doing the math…

This year, HUD’s published median income for a family of four in the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area is $108,600. This represents a 5.03% increase in median income over 2018. The median income for a family of four in this area has increased $24,000 over the past ten years. 


However, because the City of Seattle changed the methodology in which they established maximum rent increases for income-restricted programs in 2018, the actual increase for 2019, particularly MFTE, is greater than it would have been if the city maintained a consistent year-over-year methodology. Here’s why:

In 2017, the maximum allowable rent in various income restricted programs increased by 6.3%. For the city and for residents participating in these rent-restricted programs, this was likely a significant rent increase. 

In 2018, had the city used the same methodology as 2017, the maximum allowable rent in various income restricted programs should have increased by 7.7%. This would have resulted in a second year of large rent growth in income-restricted programs.

But the city chose to change its methodology and rely on HUD’s “Low (80%) Income Limits” published number instead. This resulted in a 4.4% maximum rent increase. In 2019 after HUD published the annual income figures, the city had three options. 

  1. Use the same methodology (HUD’s “Low (80%) Income Limit) as 2018, resulting in a 9.97% maximum rent increase over last year
  2. Revert to the prior methodology (80% of HUD Median income in the area) resulting in an 8.26% rent increase over last year
  3. Develop some other methodology to obtain a lower maximum rent increase

The city chose option two above, providing for a maximum increase of 8.26%. Interestingly, had the city maintained a consistent methodology over the past three years, the maximum rent increase in 2019 would be just 5%. 

The city does add a new statement in the footnote to the MFTE income and rent schedule that states, “It is the expectation of the Office of Housing that rent renewal increases for existing MFTE tenants will not exceed the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index for Rent of Primary Residences for the Seattle area, or 4%, published April 2019.” 

There is nothing in the law that requires a property owner/manager to set rents according to the Consumer Price Index for Rent of Primary Residences in the Seattle area. The law authorizing the MFTE program permits rent increases based on the annual income schedules for the Seattle area published by HUD. 

If you have any questions, please contact me at brett@wmfha.org or 425.656.9077.