Housing Affordability

Between 2013 and 2020, Burien’s average 2-bedroom rents increased 45%, while median sales prices increased 103%. Burien has the second highest home prices in the south King County sub-region.

A National and Regional Issue

In cities and towns nationwide, there is widespread lack of access to safe and affordable housing. Because of stagnant wages and rising real estate prices and interest rates, housing has become more expensive for working families. Nearly 40% of households in the United States live in rented homes, and of these households, half are “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Many Americans are going without basic necessities just to pay rent or make their mortgage payment.

Housing looks different in every city, town, and suburb. Growing cities with robust housing markets have different concerns than cities that are seeing housing quality deteriorate. According to research conducted by the King County Housing Affordable Housing Task Force, in order to ensure that no household in King County earning 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) pays more than 30 percent of their income on housing, 244,000 additional affordable homes will be needed by 2040.

Housing affordability is an issue that affects all Burien residents. Rising housing costs can lead to the displacement of long-term residents, uprooting lives and undermining the stability of both neighborhoods and the business community. A lack of affordable housing also makes it difficult to hire and retain teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other essential members of the community. Small businesses may decide to go elsewhere when owners are unable to live close to their jobs. Maintaining a healthy and sustainable city means that Burien will need to evaluate its current housing stock and consider building more and different types of housing to meet the diverse and growing needs of our population and workforce. The City of Burien is committed to addressing policy barriers to housing affordability in Burien so that Burien’s working families and seniors can continue to call Burien home.

Learn more about housing conditions in Burien and future housing projections.

Current Efforts to Address Housing Affordability in Burien and South King County

While government is a critical stakeholder in efforts to protect and establish affordable housing options, the private sector has an important role to play as well. The City of Burien is committed to working with all sectors to strategize solutions for the housing affordability crisis facing our community.

Legislation and Long-Range Planning

The City’s Comprehensive Plan currently has components that address housing affordability. City staff work Burien City Council to advance amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and the Burien Municipal Code and implement programs that will allow the City to better support housing affordability. These activities include:

  • Housing Affordability Workshop: Human Services Commission and Planning Commission hosted a joint workshop on housing affordability (December 5, 2018). Download the meeting agenda or watch the video.
  • HB 1406: Resolution and ordinance passed by Burien City Council to support the contribution of sales tax revenue (HB 1406) to a pool of funds to support an analysis of housing needs in south King County.
  • Affordable Housing Demonstration Project: Ordinance 718 was adopted by the City Council to allow for up to five affordable housing demonstration projects in Burien. Two projects have been accepted into the program.
  • Housing Needs Assessment: Conducted a housing needs assessment.
  • Housing Action Plan: Adopted a Housing Action Plan in order to identify the most pressing issues regarding housing and strategies for the City to explore in the next three to five years. The plan does not obligate the City to a certain course of action, but instead provides a framework for ongoing and future action. A housing needs assessment was included in the Housing Action Plan.
  • Burien Multifamily Housing Assessment Project: City staff coordinated with UW Master of Public Health student Leslie Sugett to build a database of all the multifamily housing properties in Burien and conduct an external assessment of the quality of those properties from a public health perspective. The City and the student completed many steps that resulted in a final report, a living database of multifamily housing, and GIS data collection experience for future projects.

Advocating for Housing Affordability at County, State, and Federal Level

The Burien City Council joined Challenge Seattle’s call-to-action for low- and middle-income housing in the Puget Sound region. The Council also agreed to support the Sound Cities Association public policy position on housing affordability. Housing affordability is part of the Council’s 2020 state and federal legislative agendas.

Councilmember Nancy Tosta serves on the King County Affordable Housing Committee. The City’s Human Services Manager serves on the Joint Recommendations Committee, an inter-jurisdictional body that provides funding recommendations and advice on guidelines and procedures for King County and its consortia city partners on a wide range of housing and community development issues.

Policy and Tax Incentives for Affordable Housing

The Burien Zoning Code has long held a Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE) that encourages the development of multifamily housing in downtown Burien in exchange for forgiveness on local property taxes for up to 12 years. The MFTE can also be used to incentivize affordable housing.

Rental Housing Policy

After an intensive community engagement process, Council passed rental housing policies designed to improve the condition rental housing in Burien and improve the relationship between landlords and tenants. 

Accessory Dwelling Units

In 2019, the City adopted changes to the Burien Municipal Code (Zoning Code) to remove barriers and encourage development of ADUs. ADUs provide an affordable alternative to single-family dwelling units. Removing barriers to ADU development will increase housing supply and promote diversity of housing types. 

Human Services Funding

The City funds several organizations that help people stay in their homes such as repair services for low-income residents, support for people facing evictions, and emergency rental assistance.

The Council passed in 2018 the Framework for Strengthening Families, a comprehensive and community-led approach to evaluating the provision of human services. The Framework is based on the Best Start for Kids protective factors.

South King County Efforts

Six cities in south King County, Washington—Auburn, Burien, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila—submitted applications for funding through HB 1923 with portions of each funding identified for a collaborative effort to develop a subregional housing action framework. This framework includes a housing context assessment and recommendations for future housing strategies to increase residential building capacity and plan for growth in the south King County region and participating cities. The resulting reports can be viewed at the links below.

South King Housing and Homelessness Partnership (SKHHP) Agreement

The City of Burien participates in an interlocal agreement between the jurisdictions of Auburn, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Normandy Park, Renton, Tukwila, and King County to form the South King Housing and Homelessness Partnership (SKHHP). The agreement directs the south King County jurisdictions to work together to address affordable housing and homelessness. This collaborative model is based on similar approaches used in Snohomish County, East King County, and other areas of the country.

By pooling resources, jurisdictions in south King County have created two new staff positions to work with each of the cities to develop plans, policy legislation, new programs, and help south King County speak with one voice at regional and state forums. The staff are working with private and nonprofit developers, potentially attracting a housing trust fund to be used for rehabilitation and building of new housing stock.

More Information

Find more information about Burien’s housing needs now and into the future:

Want to learn more about how the City of Burien is working to address housing affordability? Contact Nicole Gaudette at [email protected] or (206) 436-5574.

Updated October 6, 2021