Today, Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference to introduce the Mandatory Housing Affordability Program for residential development. As part of the press conference, Casey Gifford, a supporter involved with the Fremont for Everyone neighborhood group, provided the following remarks.
My name is Casey Gifford and I am a renter in Fremont. I wanted to speak today to represent my friends, family, and many other community members who are being driven out of Seattle because housing has become increasingly unaffordable. I speak today on behalf of people like my sister, Claire, and her husband, Lee.
In the fall of 2011, Claire and Lee, moved to Seattle from Eugene, Oregon. Claire had been accepted into the School Psychology graduate Program at the University of Washington and Lee took a position fundraising for Seattle Parks Foundation.
Even in 2011 Seattle seemed expensive. They paid $1,100 for a quirky 1-bedroom apartment just over 500 square feet in Fremont. However, at the time it was a price they were willing to pay for the proximity to everything the city has to offer. They loved the mountain and water views and effortless access to arts, entertainment, and food. Seattle quickly became their home and they couldn’t imagine ever wanting to leave.
Claire and Lee married in the fall of 2013 and she received her graduate degree the following spring. As they considered their next steps they wondered if they could afford to remain in a place where the cost of living made it difficult to save for their future. They asked themselves: Would we be able to own a home, start a family, and live a life in Seattle?
In the summer of 2014, as the funds in their savings account dwindled, they made the difficult decision to move out of the city. They chose to exchange their instant access to all they loved in Seattle for a significant reduction in rent. In less than two years they have been able save enough to enter the housing market and are looking to buy a home in Tacoma. They dearly miss life in Seattle, but know that few, if any, homes are available for them here. Despite Lee’s 6 years of experience in non-profit development and Claire’s full-time position as a school psychologist, Seattle is out of reach for them.
I am a few years younger than them and I am beginning to face the same difficult questions they have. That first Fremont apartment of theirs—that also became my first apartment in Seattle. In 2013, I paid $1200 a month. Just two years later it was listed for $1700.
Seattle needs affordable housing for all individuals regardless of education or profession. Claire and Lee’s life circumstances allowed them to leave Seattle, but there should be housing for those who don’t want to leave the city—like me, but especially for those who can’t leave the city.
When implemented, the Mandatory Affordability Program will help create much-needed market-rate and affordable housing in neighborhoods around Seattle. Thank you, Mayor Murray for helping make this city more livable, accessible, and affordable for all. To my neighbors and City Council—let’s help put this enabling legislation to use so that Seattle can keep its working and middle class.