First executive order by new Seattle Mayor aimed at helping low-income families pay rent

SEATTLE - As of Tuesday, Seattle has a new mayor. Jenny Durkan was sworn in as Mayor of Seattle a little before 4 p.m. at the Ethiopian Community Center in South Seattle.

Minutes after being sworn in Durkan launched her first two executive orders.

“During my campaign, told you we needed urgent action and you will see that this week. I will be signing a number of executive orders,” Durkan said.

The first one centers around housing affordability, she wants to create the Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Program.

The program will provide a combination of vouchers and subsidies for renters seeking help through the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA).

It would work similar to a federal program provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which currently helps 7,000 people with housing subsidies.

“I know we can attack the problems of affordability,” Mayor Durkan said.

Families with income between 30% and 50% of the area median income (AMI) will get help more quickly.

HUD programs require SHA to give preferential treatment to families making less than 30% of AMI.

So a family of 4 at 50% AMI or $48,000 would normally be in the back of the line to receive federal help but not under the city’s plan.

“This is a way to take some city resources and direct it to something more immediate,” Kerry Coughlin with the Seattle Housing Authority said.

The program is expected to help more than 100 families immediately. The city is hoping to make the pilot program a permanent one eventually helping about 32,000 families. The cost is expected to be more than $70 million.

“Essentially stem the tide for people on the verge of becoming homeless and prevent that,” Coughlin said.

Seattle rent has shot up nearly 60% in the last 6 years.

According to RentCafe, an average 2 bedroom apartment in Seattle is $2193.

The second executive order addresses race and social justice disparities.

The city launched the initiative in 2004 in hopes of achieving racial equity in the community and also to address institutionalized racism. Durkan’s order will require an extensive review of the current system.