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An Affordable Housing Program for Surgeons?

Surgeons living in affordable housing? There's no evidence that it's happening, but hypothetically speaking, one of Seattle's affordable housing programs could inadvertently provide cheap housing for rich doctors.

Miriam Roskin, of the city's Office of Housing, was just trying to illustrate a point raised in a city audit of Seattle's Multifamily Tax Exemption Program as she spoke to the City Council yesterday.

The four-year-old program offers a tax incentive to developers who agree to keep at least 20 percent of their units affordable. But, Roskin observed, "Hypothetically, a medical technician could become a surgeon and hang out there forever."

The audit recommended requiring tenants in an affordable unit to requalify every year or two, and if the tenant's income grows, the city could require the developer to make another unit affordable.

The Office of Housing is considering the idea. Roskin said it's among a number of issues raised by the audit the city should consider, including what the purpose of the program should be.

For instance, the audit found that nine areas of the city had no projects come under the program had achieved less than 35 percent of the new housing construction goals. An option, the audit said, was to only allow the program only in housing-poor areas to try to stimulate development.. But that would raise the question of whether the affordable housing program isn't still needed in booming areas where rents are going through the roof.
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Kery Murakami