King County assessor looks to public land as affordable housing option

SEATTLE — King County Assessor John Wilson has compiled a list of government-owned land that could potentially be turned into sites for affordable housing.

Wilson said there are 300 properties in the city of Seattle alone, with hundreds more in the rest of the county.

The list was developed by identifying parcels that are within 750 feet of bus transit, have minimal land issues and are greater than 4,000 square feet.

The properties had no obvious use, based on 2015 imagery, though construction for other projects has begun on many of the sites since then. The list includes parking lots and parking garages.

One of the properties listed is a parking lot in the Rainier Valley. KIRO 7 visited the parcel and noticed only three vehicles there, plus one homeless person, who was staying on one end of the lot.

Wilson said he has not approached all the city, county, state and federal landowners yet, but is working on projects that could utilize the space.

"The cheapest, fastest way is to put housing on existing land that you already have, so you don't have to go through the purchase process," Wilson said.

Wilson spent the Tuesday lunch hour serving food he personally bought for the homeless people who are staying on the plaza of the King County Administration Building.

Cecilie Nice was grateful for the temporary comfort. She is trying to adjust to living in a tent after losing her apartment just two days ago.

She said her landlord in Renton had raised the rent by $200 more per month.

“My husband lost his job. I've been diagnosed with cancer. So it's hard,” Nice said. “I cried.”

She thinks using existing government land is a great idea. With the limited affordable housing options, people in the tent city can only get on waiting lists that are at minimum one year long.

David Gilchrist and his fiancée are at Tent City 6 at the King County Administration Building, because they can find few other options for shelters that will take unmarried couples.

Gilchrist has recently done some temporary construction jobs.

"We don't want a free house. I'm a young man that likes to work. Just maybe for a little while -- a little cheaper to help out," he said.

Wilson also wants to re-introduce a different version of a bill that would offer some tax breaks to landlords in exchange for keeping rents low. A similar effort did not pass the Legislature during the last session.

UPDATE: Here's the story that aired >>...

Posted by Natasha Chen CNN on Tuesday, July 19, 2016