One of the Alliance’s chief goals is to create a venue where a variety of jurisdictions can come to together to learn from each others’ experiences. Last week’s joint board meeting demonstrated the opportunity we have created, with experience flowing within and between AHA’s member jurisdictions and the affordable housing provider community.
First, Bill Raser, of the Snohomish Affordable Housing Group (SNOAHG), gave a presentation on his organization’s unique affordable housing production model. The SNOAHG works on a smaller scale and with a tighter geographic focus than most other providers, but is able to build housing in a much more cost effective manner. The group’s foundation is a board comprised of a dedicated group of volunteers that are experienced professionals in all areas of real estate development and finance, with the connections to secure favorable financing terms and concessions on development costs. The City of Snohomish also offers strong support, from waiving permit fees to providing affordable land leases for development. Beyond these intensive cost saving measures, SNOAHG does not receive any additional government funding, but still serves households below 50% area median income. The conditions for making this model work are exacting, but Bill offered the group’s assistance to any new organization hoping to follow their example, or any jurisdiction hoping to support a similar group. A PDF of yesterday’s presentation is here, and more information can be found on the SNOAHG website.
This was followed with a practical discussion of multifamily tax exemptions (MFTE). One member city is considering establishing an MFTE, and four other members already have established programs and experience to share. Representatives from some of the cities with MFTE programs were able to share their experience and answer questions from others present. The general takeaway was that, while MFTE programs do not generate affordable housing for the most critical income levels (<50% AMI), they can be extremely effective in spurring development in underperforming areas. This supports housing affordability from another angle, by ensuring adequate housing supply overall – the section of the housing planning guide on minimizing development barriers offers more detail. We’re looking forward to having more discussions like these at future meetings.