Housing Policy Resources

A key goal of the Oly DSA Social Housing Working Group is to lead the creation of a concrete, specific policy for social housing development in Olympia. To that end, we want to collect and make available statistical, legal, and historical resources that can help inform ourselves and others in finding more reliable ways to guarantee every person can find a home.

The People's Policy Project (PPP) produced a report last year, Social Housing in the United States, on the effectiveness and feasability of social housing development in the US. Working from historical data from Vienna, Sweden, and Finland, the report provides a description of both how and how much social housnig can have an impact in our country.

Social Housing Examples

Social housing simply means housing that is owned by and available to everyone in a community. In some ways, it is also accurately described as public housing, but in the United States this has come to be synonymous with poor quality housing built specifically to house poor people, often with ths implication that the worse the housing, the better, as it will 'incentivize' poor people to stop being poor. (Of course, this punitive approach to housing is both morally reprehensible and economically stupid.)


We envision social housing in Thurston County working towards a goal set by Vienna over the last century. in the 1920s, Vienna began constructing social housing to address a major housing shortfall (a problem we face today), but rather than attempting to incentivize private development or construct low-quality, warehous-like apartments, the City of Vienna invested in good-quality apartments, that were well designed and situated, and were intended to be permanent, affordable residences for the working people of Vienna. Rents were structured by a simple, cost plus system, and revenues beyond adminstratino and upkeep went to financing the construction of futher social housing. Now, most Viennese, rich or poor live in housing that is directly owned or funded by the city government, in diverse buildings designed by world-renowned architects.

See the PPP resport above, or the following histories for more information on the Vienna model: HUD, 'Vienna's Unique Social Housing Program', a brief (two page) overview of Vienna's pogram.

Wolfgang Forster, '80 Years of Social Housing in Vienna', produced for the government of Vienna. Mostly a history, but the last section has a rich description of current policy changes in Vienna

"Social Housing and the Werkbund Estate", from the City of Vienna's tourism agency

Other Examples

Although Vienna has perhaps the most impressive history of social housing development, one that survived both the Nazi takeover and World War II, social housing is widespread in Europe. Below are several examples intended to highlight the architecture and, as much as possible, the social environment of such housing developments around Europe (with some bias towards the UK, simply because of language issues).

"30 of the World's Most Impressive Social Housing Projects"

The Alexandra Road Estate, galleries here, here, and here.

The Dunboyne Road Estate.

For a tenants perspective on social housing, at least in the UK, here is this Guardian article. As a bonus, one of the tenants they interview is Neave Brown, the architect of Alexandra and Dunboyne Road Estates and other wonderful British social housing.

Local Reports

Our County and City governments have been studying housing and homelessness with a new vigor, recently. Below are several reports detailing the problems we face and some solutions, although none of the reports posits a long-term solution to our housing shortfall. Thurston County and Olympia Consolidatyed Plan Thurston Coutny Homelessness Housing Plan


The Census Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics provide a wealth of statistical data. BLS provides information about income and enployment, while Census provides detailed information on a wide range of attributes, including housing costs and availability. The Thurston Regional Planning Council also provides local statistics and projections, such as our population growth estimate that estimates we will have 70,000 new people coming to the county (and looking for housing) over the next decade.

HUD Housing Market Analyses

The Department of Housing and Urban development produces comprehensive Housing Market Analyses every year: Olympia, 2016 Tacoma-Lakewood, 2017 Seattle, 2017 HUD also provides automatically compiled statistical descriptions of housing markets down to the county (or metropolitan statistical area) level.


For real housing nerds, you can read the enabling legislation that created the Housing Authority of Thurston County: RCW 35.82.