We’re working on an interview series with newly seated Pierce County Council members about housing. This is our feature on Councilmember Hans Zeiger (District 2).
Meet Councilmember Zeiger
Hans Zeiger began his public service career with his election to the State House of Representatives in 2010 to represent the 25th legislative district. He won reelect in 2012 and 2014, before winning election to the State Senate in 2016. Then Senator Zeiger worked closely with Habitat for Humanity to support our efforts to control affordable housing development costs and support the funding of homeownership programs. Senator Zeiger was the key co-sponsor for SB 6212 during the 2019 session and this legislation will save Habitat for Humanity affiliates approximately $500,000 annually, allowing those dollars to support more households in need of safe and affordable housing.
Following the 2020 legislative session, Mr. Zeiger launched a successful campaign to represent District 2 on the Pierce County Council, serving the citizens of Puyallup, Sumner, Fife, Milton, Pacific, Edgewood, Northeast Tacoma, Southeast Auburn, Port of Tacoma, Browns Point and Dash Point.
Q: The Countywide Planning Policies notes that it should be the goal of all participating municipalities that 25% of new housing be affordable to households earning less than 80% of the area median income (AMI). Is this actually possible? If yes, how do we accomplish this?
A: Yes, it is possible, but it is also difficult. As population in the Puget Sound region continues to grow, demand for affordable housing far exceeds supply. Local governments (County, cities and towns) will need to take bold policy actions to bring more affordable housing units onto the market. Mostly, this is about creating options and incentives. We need to open doors for more shared housing solutions. We need to make it easier for existing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units. We need to make it easier for people to permit tiny homes and cottages. We need tools to promote high-density housing along transit routes in our new multi-use Centers and Corridors. And of course, we need more incentives for affordable homeownership.
Q: For years our local municipalities, non-profit partners, and builders have struggled to develop housing quickly enough to meet the surging demands on our rental and homeownership markets. How would you like to see the Council partner with these players to meet the housing needs of our growing communities?
A: Recently, the County Council met for a two-day retreat, and we found that there is a lot of shared interest among councilmembers across the political spectrum in finding affordable housing solutions. Working together, I am confident that we can craft practical, meaningful housing policies that allow more Pierce County residents to afford rent or a mortgage.
To do this, the Council needs to remain engaged with and supportive of the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners (SSHAP) roundtable. SSHAP has proven to be an outstanding forum for our local governments to find common ground on addressing our shortage of affordable housing. Because of this effort, local leaders understand the issues and opportunities better, and they are collaborating on solutions.
Q: You’ve served in some type of elected office since 2010 – first in the Washington House of Representatives and then in the Washington State Senate – what have you learned in your first month on the County Council that has surprised you?
A: I didn’t fully appreciate the role of our County boards and commissions until getting started on the Council. I was aware of many of the boards and commissions and even served on the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board for a time. But now that I am on the Council, I am reminded daily about the importance that boards and commissions have in advising local government officials in the decision-making process. Through these important venues for deliberative democracy, citizens can play a key role in policy discussions around housing, human services, community planning, environmental conservation, parks and recreation, neighborhood issues, transportation, and children and youth issues. We have a number of current openings for these key advisory roles, and I encourage people to volunteer if they have time and interest. You can see a list of vacancies here.
Photo: Then Senator Hans Zeiger pictured (L to R) with volunteer Michelle, Habitat Homeowner Denise Nicole, and Habitat staffer Beth during Habitat Advocacy Day in Olympia, 2019.