Seattle's MFTE Rent Freeze is Illegal

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News ,

The Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) program is a highly successful affordable housing program authorized by the City of Seattle to create affordable rental housing to families earning between 65% and 80% AMI.  As of June 2017, more than 160 apartment communities participate in the program, creating more than 32,000 affordable apartment homes.  The effectiveness of the MFTE program is grounded in the private sector's reliance upon the certainty the program provides. 

Annually, the City of Seattle has updated rent and income limits for its affordable housing programs.  Median income in the Seattle-Bellevue area has fluctuated over the past six years as a result of the population's income changes.  As a result of these fluctuations, median rent has also adjusted over the years. 

 

 

Efficiency

One-Bedroom

Two-Bedroom

Three-Bedroom

Four-Bedroom

2012

$800

$912

$1,098

$1,551

$1,895

2013

$758

$897

$1,104

$1,627

$1,955

2014

$771

$913

$1,123

$1,655

$1,989

2015

$972

$1,150

$1,415

$2,085

$2,506

2016

$1,049

$1,225

$1,523

$2,220

$2,617

2017

$1,093

$1,249

$1,544

$2,240

$2,654

2018

$1,363

$1,529

$1,878

$2,719

$3,219

Last year, HUD's Median Income increased, resulting in a 6.3% increase in rent for residents participating in the MFTE program.  On March 30, HUD published Median Income for 2018.  The Median Income increased substantially from $96,000 to $103,400.  The result of this increase is an 11.3% increase in rent in the MFTE program. 

As a result, and on policy only, the City of Seattle refuses to publish the 2018 HUD Rent and Income limits.  This is illegal under both the contracts signed by property owners and the City and under the City's Municipal Code.  Beyond legality, the City's approach erodes trust in a successful program in already difficult times.  This decision affects performance of the program and disqualifies households that would otherwise become eligible for the MFTE program under the 2018 income levels. 

The City has tools to equitably mitigate the impact of a substantial annual increase of rent.  The City should utilize these tools, instead of taking illegal policy positions that dissuade property owners from participating in and producing affordable housing.