Bellevue has long been a highly desirable city for locals in the Puget Sound area, particularly for tech workers and those moving to the area for new employment opportunities. But with that high demand comes an even higher price tag—something city officials have grappled with for years as they continue to develop housing projects and businesses in the area. A recent poll by Change Research indicates that Bellevue residents are generally in favor of affordable housing and would like to see more policies supporting these efforts.
The poll has been referenced by pro-housing groups including Northwest Progressive Institute, Sightline Institute, Complete Streets Bellevue, Eastside for All and Housing Development Consortium as they lobby for increased affordable housing in the city. Though the groups did not reveal the full results of the poll, a few key responses among the 475 participants were identified. These responses were then weighted demographically to reflect the entire population of Bellevue.
One of the most telling responses was to the question of whether the housing market in Bellevue is “currently meeting the needs of the community.” 68% of the respondents disagreed and 27% agreed. A follow-up question asked whether the city should take a more “hands-on” or “hands-off” approach to housing. 65% chose the “hands-on” approach, while 19% chose the latter. In this case, a hands-on approach would entail passing more policies the promote or require the development of affordable homes, while a hands-off approach would reduce zoning regulations and requirements and allow the market to dictate what type of housing is built.
Another question asked whether Bellevue should require developers to reserve a certain number of units to be used for affordable housing. Adjoining cities including Redmond, Kirkland and nearby Seattle already have similar policies in place. The survey respondents were 78% in favor of this, with 18% against it.
This approach in particular could benefit those in need of affordable housing. Sometimes developers can choose pay fees instead of reserving affordable units, but in that case the funds would be funneled to organizations dedicated to building affordable housing.
The city has already taken steps to improve access to affordable housing by allowing denser housing developments near transit and providing tax breaks to developers that include rent-capped units in their buildings. This is in part because of a 2017 goal to add 2,500 affordable units to the city by 2027. While Bellevue is on track to meet that goal, the targets were set before the pandemic exacerbated the already-existing housing shortage in the area.
Between 2010 and 2020, Bellevue’s population grew by 24% — a notable increase. With rent hikes and inflation putting the squeeze on renters, the recent poll indicates that affordable housing should be a top priority for city leaders moving forward.