Downtown Seattle Adobe Stock/Iolya

According to a recent city advisory report by the Seattle Planning Commission, the city should embrace more duplexes near schools, expanding the boundaries of urban villages, and reducing lot sizes. The commission has worked on the report for a year and a half and it is not expected to be popular. “We recognize totally that this is a challenging issue for many in Seattle and this is controversial, and could cause some anxiety for folks,” said Tom Parham the chairman of the commission. “One of the roles of this paper is just to put the idea out there, so that people can have a common starting point.”

As the median cost of a house has soared to $750,000, “making homeownership impossible for those with modest incomes,” single-family homeowners make more than twice as much as those living in other types of housing. The household income gap between renters and homeowners has grown from $43,000 a decade ago to $65,000 now. Only one-third of single-family-zone dwellers make below the city’s median income (compared to two-thirds of people living in the rest of the city) and the disparity could widen as soaring property taxes push poorer homeowners to sell.

About half of white residents in Seattle own homes — while just one-fourth of black and Hispanic residents do. The commission argues a big part of the disparity is due to redlining and racial covenants, which decades ago prevented nonwhites from living in some desirable single-family zones, making it impossible for families of color to pass homes down through generations. Current zoning “perpetuates that legacy” by allowing only expensive housing there.

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