Residential block design
An example of residential block design (Photo: La Citta Vita, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Near­ly two-thirds of Seat­tle’s most reli­able vot­ers favor allow­ing the con­struc­tion of four to six sto­ry mul­ti­fam­i­ly apart­ment build­ings any­where in the city for social hous­ing that includes dwellings for edu­ca­tors, nurs­es, and archi­tects, a poll con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute ear­li­er this year shows.

65% of 651 like­ly spe­cial elec­tion vot­ers sur­veyed by Change Research for NPI in advance of Seat­tle’s Feb­ru­ary 2023 spe­cial elec­tion said they are strong­ly or some­what sup­port­ive of allow­ing mul­ti­fam­i­ly apart­ment build­ings to be built any­where in the city to pro­vide hous­ing for peo­ple work­ing in pro­fes­sions like teach­ing, while 30% said they were opposed. 5% said that they were not sure.

About four in ten Seat­tle vot­ers sur­veyed said they were strong­ly sup­port­ive, while few­er than two in ten said they were strong­ly opposed. 26% were some­what sup­port­ive, while 11% were some­what opposed.

Seat­tle vot­ers in Feb­ru­ary said yes to Ini­tia­tive 135, a social hous­ing ini­tia­tive cham­pi­oned by our friends at House Our Neigh­bors. The mea­sure autho­rized the for­ma­tion of a pub­lic devel­op­ment author­i­ty, or PDA, to build social housing.

State and city elect­ed lead­ers have since been work­ing to mar­shal fund­ing to help the PDA get set up and begin its oper­a­tions, a process that will take some time.

NPI’s research shows that a big per­cent­age of the city’s most depend­able vot­ers — the folks who can be count­ed upon to return a bal­lot regard­less of what time of year it is or how much media cov­er­age an elec­tion is get­ting — are enthu­si­as­tic about get­ting more social hous­ing built, and not just in neigh­bor­hoods that are already home to medi­um sto­ry build­ings. Here’s our ques­tion and responses:

QUESTION: Do you sup­port or oppose allow­ing the con­struc­tion of four to six sto­ry mul­ti­fam­i­ly apart­ment build­ings any­where in Seat­tle for social hous­ing that includes dwellings for edu­ca­tors, nurs­es, and architects?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 65% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 39%
    • Some­what sup­port: 26%
  • Oppose: 30%
    • Some­what oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 18%
  • Not sure: 5%

We had a fol­low-up ques­tion that we asked of those opposed, which was:

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: You indi­cat­ed you’re opposed to allow­ing four to six sto­ry mul­ti­fam­i­ly apart­ment build­ings to be built any­where in Seat­tle. Are there oth­er types of hous­ing units you would sup­port in your neigh­bor­hood? Check all that apply.

ANSWERS:

  • Duplex­es: 43%
  • Attached dwelling units (ADUs) / back­yard cot­tages: 38%
  • Town­hous­es: 23%
  • Triplex­es: 15%
  • Four­plex­es: 13%
  • Five­plex­es: 7%
  • Six­plex­es: 7%
  • None of these: 41%

What these fol­low-up answers show us is that even among folks who don’t want to see four to six sto­ry mul­ti­fam­i­ly apart­ment build­ings allowed any­where in Seat­tle, there’s still open­ness to oth­er miss­ing mid­dle hous­ing solutions.

Duplex­es topped the list, fol­lowed by ADUs and back­yard cottages.

There was less inter­est in town­hous­es or oth­er types. Slight­ly more peo­ple in this group of vot­ers expressed sup­port for duplex­es than checked the box that said “none of these,” a par­tic­u­lar­ly intrigu­ing result. (Remem­ber, these are the peo­ple who said they were some­what or strong­ly opposed to the first question!)

We asked a sim­i­lar fol­low-up ques­tion of our sup­port­ive vot­ers, and as you might expect, they’re extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic about the whole range of options.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION (ASKED OF SUPPORTIVE VOTERS): Are there oth­er types of hous­ing you’d sup­port allow­ing to be built any­where in Seat­tle? Check all that apply.

  • Duplex­es: 78%
  • Attached dwelling units (ADUs) / back­yard cot­tages: 72%
  • Town­hous­es: 71%
  • Triplex­es: 71%
  • Four­plex­es: 68%
  • Five­plex­es: 58%
  • Six­plex­es: 58%
  • None of these: 7%

Our sur­vey of 651 like­ly Feb­ru­ary 2023 spe­cial elec­tion vot­ers in Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton was in the field from Thurs­day, Jan­u­ary 26th, through Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 30th, 2023. All respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed online. The poll was con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute by Change Research and has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.2% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

Hous­ing pol­i­cy took front and cen­ter stage in the recent­ly-con­clud­ed 2023 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, with law­mak­ers adopt­ing sev­er­al bills that will make it eas­i­er to build miss­ing mid­dle hous­ing in com­mu­ni­ties across the state.

As we saw with the vote on I‑135, Seat­tle vot­ers are keen on a mul­ti­fac­eted strat­e­gy that embraces a range of ideas and solu­tions for mak­ing hous­ing more attain­able. Vot­ers aren’t just will­ing to say yes to more infra­struc­ture and mon­ey for hous­ing, they’re also ready to wel­come new neigh­bors so that every­one who wants to live in the City of Seat­tle can have a place to call home.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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