Bellevue Housing Research Coalition survey highlights housing affordability issues

68% of respondents said Bellevue’s housing market is not meeting the community’s needs.

To understand the housing needs of the Bellevue community, and to deliver affordability-focused solutions for Bellevue residents, five organizations teamed up this summer to sponsor a survey and to create the Bellevue Housing Research Coalition.

The survey was conducted by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI); Complete Streets Bellevue; the Housing Development Consortium; the Sightline Institute and Eastside For All. The survey findings were unveiled at a September 12 press conference, and included a total of 475 respondents that were surveyed between August 15-19.

According to survey data, 68% of respondents disagreed that the housing market in Bellevue is currently meeting the needs of the community, while only 27% of respondents agreed.

“The poll data resonates strongly with what we’ve been observing, not just in recent years during the pandemic, but as the result of a long-term trend that’s put an increasing amount of financial strain on renters and made home ownership out of reach for more and more Bellevue families,” said Debbie Lacy, founder and executive director of Eastside For All. “Stories of displacement are commonplace and heartbreaking.”

Findings from the survey include:

  • 51% of respondents said they know someone who works in Bellevue but must commute long distances to be able to afford rent and housing.
  • 46% of respondents said that housing affordability in Bellevue is a problem that has impacted them personally.
  • 42% of respondents said that housing affordability in Bellevue is an issue that’s impacting family members, such as children, grandchildren, grandparents, siblings, and other close relatives.

“We found strong agreement across neighborhoods that a more ‘hands-on’ approach from City Hall is urgently needed to address the housing crisis facing Bellevue and the greater Puget Sound region,” said Andrew Villeneuve, executive director of NPI. “We hope these findings help Bellevue’s elected representatives accelerate the city’s response to the lack of attainable and affordable housing in the community.”

In addition to taking a more ‘hands-on’ approach from City Hall, 78% of respondents think that Bellevue should require developers that are constructing new homes in Bellevue to reserve a percentage of units within their projects as affordable housing.

“We’re not surprised by the results of the survey–we’re as concerned as the community. We are the community. We live in Bellevue,” said Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson, who added that the entire region is experiencing a housing imbalance, and that the city is concerned about the lack of affordability in Bellevue.

Mayor Robinson said the city is working through a list of recommendations and incentives, although the city still has a ways to go. The mayor brought up the Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE) program, which has resulted in affordable housing units and will create more in the future.

Rehabilitating and preserving older housing units as permanent affordable housing is another focus of the city, said the mayor, in addition to the AHS C-1 program, which allows density bonuses and multifamily building types on qualifying religious organization-owned properties for the development of 100% affordable housing.

“We are creating an Eastgate supportive housing–I think 80 units there,” said Mayor Robinson. “We have projects all over Bellevue where affordable housing is being created. It just takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Eastgate supportive housing will serve those who have experienced homelessness in the city of Bellevue and when completed, will provide 92 studio apartments to those who have formerly experienced homelessness. Plymouth Housing, which is a nonprofit focused on eliminating homelessness, expects the construction of Eastgate to be completed by the winter of 2023.

Additional affordable housing programs in the city include the Housing Stability Program (HSP), which invests in housing and human services for vulnerable populations in Bellevue.

“Currently in its second year of implementation, two HSP requests for proposals for 2023 capital and human services funding have generated strong interest from both affordable housing and human service providers,” said Brad Harwood, chief communications officer for the city of Bellevue.

Back in 2017, the Bellevue City Council adopted the Affordable Housing Strategy, with the target of creating 2,500 affordable housing units within 10 years. Many of the city’s initiatives stem from the Affordable Housing Strategy.

“As jobs grow across the city, we need to ensure the people who work in the city can live there. As daunting as we know the housing crisis to be, we know what works,” said Patience Malaba, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium.