July 14, 2018

Sound Transit rail stations could help solve our housing crisis

The entrance to the Capitol Hill Light Rail station

All of Sound Transit’s LINK light-rail stations offer opportunities to create vibrant, walkable mixed-use communities with significant amounts of new housing and reduced dependence on automobiles.

By Rick Mohler and Al Levine
Special to The Seattle Times

We need a bold, regional approach to housing affordability.

As a recent Seattle Times editorial notes, Seattle alone cannot solve our housing affordability crisis. Instead, we need a bold and broad regional approach to providing more housing that leverages our $60 billion regional investment in transit.

The scale of our housing affordability crisis is daunting. Some 290,100 (or 1 in 3) households in King County spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, while 6,320 people had no shelter at all during this year’s Point in Time Count. We need to build roughly 156,000 units of housing in King County to address our current housing shortfall, according to the King County Housing Affordability Task Force. By 2040, the total number of units needed is expected to climb to 244,000. Debating how to provide hundreds or even thousands of additional housing units doesn’t adequately address the magnitude of this problem.

Seattle architect Rick Mohler is an associate professor of architecture, University of Washington. He co-chairs the American Institute of Architects’ Seattle Public Policy Board and serves on the Seattle Planning Commission.

We are currently making the largest transit investment in our region’s history. By 2040 we will have light rail connecting Everett to Tacoma and Seattle to Redmond and Issaquah. All of the stations on these lines offer opportunities to leverage our investment to create vibrant, walkable mixed-use communities with significant amounts of new housing and reduced dependence on automobiles. Some station locations are particularly promising as modest development currently surrounds the station areas. One of these locations is Kent/Des Moines.

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