A Regional Coalition for Housing

We hear from Lindsay Masters, ARCH Executive Director, about the organization's work in our region

Can you share your bio and tell us about how you became involved with ARCH?

I’m originally from the Chicago area and have worked in affordable housing my whole career. I grew up in a racially and economically diverse community, and over time became passionate about undoing the historic legacy of segregation and housing discrimination that shaped most of the Chicago area. After living and working in Seattle at the city’s Office of Housing for a number of years, I moved my family to the Eastside and felt drawn to make a difference here. The opportunity came up at ARCH, and I jumped at it.

Was there a catalyst that motivated city leaders to come together to address housing as a coalition? 

The impetus for ARCH was a Citizen’s Affordable Housing Task Force in Bellevue in the early 1990s. There was a recognition at that time that housing issues did not stop at a city’s border, and we were fortunate to have some forward-thinking leaders put forth the idea that by working together cities might be able to have a greater impact. Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and King County were the original members of the coalition, but the idea caught on and membership eventually expanded to include 15 cities. That original idea has really proven itself over time and has continued to resonate with city leaders.

Has the housing situation evolved in any way since ARCH began?

A lot has changed since ARCH’s founding, even as the model of cities working together has continued to stand the test of time. Obviously our region has not been able to build enough housing to keep up with the rapid growth in jobs and population, and the impacts have been dramatic—on families, businesses, our basic institutions. It is hard to overstate how far-reaching the impacts have been. At the same time, I think there is now a widespread awareness of how this is affecting everyone, and that is creating a greater drive to take action, as well as an acceptance that all communities should be contributing toward solutions in some way. We have state and local governments actively trying to move the needle; we have major corporations offering to play a role; and the public is increasingly educated and engaged.

What are the most high impact ways that ARCH is addressing the lack of low and middle income housing? 

Our coalition has had huge success investing local dollars in the development of affordable housing. This strategy adds to the permanent supply of affordable homes and has yielded a ten to one leverage rate on our investment. We can also make a major difference by helping cities to establish sound housing policies in their land use regulations that create a healthier balance of housing to jobs, and ensure there are affordable units integrated in all the new development that is coming. Finally, we are big believers in creating more affordable homeownership opportunities, which help build wealth and give lower income families a sense of stability and long-term investment in the community.

What are the policy changes that ARCH is hoping to see in the next year or two? Are they at the city/state/national level? 

There are so many things that need to happen, and the exciting thing is that we have amazing leaders in our region talking about all of them.

On a big picture level, we truly need some big policy moves to happen through federal legislation – the major source of equity for affordable housing development comes from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, and there have been efforts for many years to expand this resource. But we also don’t want to sit around and wait when there are things we can do locally that make a difference. Recently we have been focusing as a coalition on how we can create a sustainable and meaningful source of funding for local investments in affordable housing, which would help to draw other resources here and increase our impact.

ARCH has also supported cities in the coalition who are interested in pursuing basic rental regulations – developing model ordinances that would offer longer notice periods before big rent increases to help create more stability in the rental market and ensure people remain housed.

Finally, cities are also on the cusp of taking up what are called Comprehensive Plans, which establish long-term housing and land use policies. I’m excited to see how those plans can move us toward a future that draws on lessons from our past and creates greater access to opportunities for people of diverse incomes.

 Is there anything you'd like local citizens to know about ARCH's work?

In addition to our work with cities, we also work directly with people looking for affordable housing opportunities. We run one of the larger homeownership programs in the state, and are able to offer rare opportunities for people with low to middle incomes a chance to purchase homes at an accessible price point. We have a small but dedicated team that is passionate about helping people and deeply aware of just how many more people need affordable housing.

Obviously our region has not been able to build enough housing to keep up with the rapid growth in jobs and population, and the impacts have been dramatic—on families, businesses, our basic institutions.

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