Designing for equity

What does it mean to design for equity?  For 14 days in September, Seattle’s annual Design Festival is offering an opportunity for design professionals and members of the public to consider this question in depth.   Each day’s events are listed in the festival’s schedule-at-a-glance.

The festival opens with a 2-day block party at Occidental Park (Sept. 12-13, 10am – 6pm), featuring design installations, performances, and activities for “people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.”

On PARK(ing) Day ( Friday, Sept. 18) on-street parking spaces all over Seattle will morph into pop-up “mini-parks.” The Design Festival will announce awards in several categories on social media.

An all-day conference will offer “a deeper dive into design for equity” at Seattle’s Central Public Library on Saturday, Sept. 19th.  From 9:30am to 6pm, participants can engage with workshops, panels, films, lectures, and installations addressing issues such as “equitable urban planning, designers’ role in youth incarceration, and gender justice in design practice.”

From 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 23rd, the public is invited to join design professionals at the Equity Drafting Table to explore strategies that help everyone thrive. This free, interactive event is presented by the International Living Future Institute (and partners Sustainable Seattle, Feet First, Seattle Architecture Foundation, and King County) at the Bullitt Center from 6 to 8 pm.  Space is limited, so registration is recommended.

Communities Count has an abiding commitment to equity, and is proud to have assisted in King County’s participation in this year’s design festival.

Path(s) to affordable housing

KUOW has posted an article and interactive graphics that look at policies behind the 15,182 income-restricted rental units built in Seattle since federal funding for affordable housing was cut in the early 1980s.  The article offers an overview of Seattle’s strategies for financing affordable rental housing – successes, failures, and possibilities for the future.

As the user hovers a cursor over each project on the map, an information pop-up displays the project’s name, address, date of completion, financing mechanism, number and sizes of units reserved for low-income renters, and distribution of units rented at market rates and those reserved for specified categories of low-income renters.

Of the policies reviewed, using property-tax money from Seattle’s affordable housing levies financed about 80% of the past 3 decades’ income-restricted rentals.  Giving tax breaks to developers who included affordable units accounted for another 16% of units (after 12 years, however, owners can raise rents to market rates).

For families with children, the supply of affordable rentals in Seattle is limited. About three-quarters of income-restricted units (11,304) were studios, 1-bedrooms, or SROs (single room/resident occupancy); another 4% were in group homes; only 6% of units had 3 or 4 bedrooms.

Over the next 10 years, Seattle hopes to generate an additional 20,000 affordable units.  KUOW is making it easier to understand the behind-the-scenes policies that could make that happen.

See Communities Count’s Housing topic for King County data on affordable housing.  Look for an update on affordable housing for King County cities before the end of the month.