Credit: Rachel Lee (Washington Environmental Council)

The Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County envisions a community where all people live with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes within communities of opportunity. HDC’s 190+ member organizations strive not only to house our growing population, but to do so in healthy, efficient, and safe homes.

Targeting this goal puts us squarely at the intersection of three urgent regional challenges: the shortage of affordable housing, persistent inequity, and climate change.

  • King County is experiencing explosive growth and unprecedented inequity in access to housing. We face an affordable housing shortfall of 156,000 homes today and a projected deficit of 244,000 homes by 2040. Closing that gap requires an additional 44,000 affordable homes every five years. Capital dollars currently available to King County’s affordable housing developers are nowhere near what is needed.
  • Far too many low-income King County households—disproportionately people of color—are now perpetually housing insecure or pushed into homelessness.
  • Enveloping everything is the climate crisis. In recognition of the issue’s urgency and the effects of the built environment, Washington state’s energy code includes bold mandates for reducing net energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2031.

Housing affordability, equity, and climate change: incremental progress is no longer enough. Neither are approaches that treat each issue in isolation, failing to respond to their fundamental interdependence.

HDC’s Exemplary Buildings Program is a regional collaborative effort targeting nothing less than transformation of the affordable housing market.

We believe it’s possible to create equitable access to healthy, safe housing that is both affordable and ultra-efficient. How? Through the use of performance standards and building practices that reduce the overall premium (the additional costs of implementing ultra-efficiency) to the point where the premium can be financed through the operational savings generated by ultra-efficiency.

We’re not saying this will be easy. But HDC has always targeted the “upstream” results that change things both now and for generations to come. We’re known for mobilizing groups to take on complex, longstanding challenges and for supporting them in unifying around a shared agenda. We equip citizens to engage with their governments at the community, county, and state levels. Our programs spread best practices and nurture a continuous pipeline of emerging leaders. The audacious vision of our Exemplary Buildings Program is a great example of what we do and why.

Trying to integrate equity into building policies and programs? Check out this fantastic practical guide from Emerald Cities Collaborative.