Where will the new Convention Center workers live? Behind the numbers.
As our region booms, we are adding far more jobs than housing units. From 2010 to 2015 Seattle has added 49 jobs, but only 12 homes per day. Our city and region is particularly behind on providing housing for people who make 50% of the median income or less, people like hotel desk clerks who average $12.32 per hour. The Washington State Convention Center projects that their new expansion was create 2,300 jobs in the hospitality industry downtown. As our country continue to climb out of the Great Recession, we need more jobs. Unfortunately, many of these jobs will not pay enough to afford to live in Seattle. When these workers and their families cannot afford housing near work, they are forced into long commutes, that add to traffic congestion, hurt our environment, and take away time from family and community. Luckily, the Convention Center can do something about this by providing affordable housing as a public benefit.
Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for our region and on similar findings for recent downtown Seattle hotel projects, we expect that 60% of the jobs created by the Convention Center expansion will make less than 50% of Area Median Income. The local hotel workers Union, UNITE HERE Local 8, has shared information in the past that the average household size for its members is 1.33. Thanks to the income of other family members, only half of the workers making 50% of Area Median Income or less live in households that fall below 50%. This combination of figures leads us to a simple equation for calculating the need for affordable (50% of AMI) housing created by the expansion: 2,300 X 0.6 X 0.5 / 1.33 = 519. It costs about $110,000 in local subsidy to create 50 years of affordability, which gets us to about $57 million in needed funding.