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Dean’s Dialogue Discussion Series Summary: Housing

On Wednesday, April 17th, over 25 people gathered in Architecture Hall, or joined the discussion via Zoom, to discuss the topic of the UW’s housing problem as part of the Dean’s Dialogue Discussion Series launched by the College of Built Environments’ new dean, Renée Cheng. Participants in the meeting comprised of faculty, students, and professional advisory group representatives from CBE’s five departments (Architecture, Construction Management, Landscape Architecture, Real Estate, and Urban Design & Planning) as well as from the University of Washington’s Facilities in the office of Special Programs.

Dean Cheng welcomed participants to Wednesday’s meeting and began the conversation with a question: Can UW Solve its own housing problem?

In 1991, the UW made a major effort and had great success addressing our own transportation problems; we created a holistic change in behavior by establishing the right incentives through tactically pricing parking and transit passes and working with infrastructure partners to increase bus service to campus. This success demonstrated a model of how choice commuting could work in the entire city and state.

The University may grow by up to six million net new gross square feet over the next 10 years and is expanding west of 15th according to the UW Campus Master Plan. Could the University do the same for our region’s housing problem as we did for transportation in 1991, creating affordable housing for faculty, staff and students? What would the College of Built Environments do to change the pro forma for land we develop? How would larger systems need to be brought into play? Who would we collaborate with?

Participants in the meeting were excited about this conversation and agreed the best way to move forward is through a unified vision, ascertaining who else from within the UW should be involved in the dialogue, and a public collection of information to include keyword searching capabilities from courses, studios, and research that have already occurred, are underway, or have yet to occur that touch on the housing issues in our region. There was also agreement for the need to look more broadly at the efforts already underway outside the university in both the city and at the state level.

Several students from the College of Built Environments were in attendance and reminded the group to keep in mind that when we converse about the need for housing solutions for our staff, faculty, and students, there are real people who are experiencing housing insecurity and are currently affected by this housing problem, particularly international and out-of-state students.

Additional takeaways from this meeting:

  • The community’s trust in the University provides a unique opportunity for us to offer informed input or lend support to legislative solutions and policy issues, where appropriate. (Examples: encouraging backyard cottages (ADU, DADU) on single-family lots. Incentivize the missing middle and assist in identifying how to use our existing building stock in new ways. Addressing the need for more 2-3 bedroom housing in Seattle. Assisting homeowners to earn extra income by subletting open bedrooms to students/staff/faculty)
  • Students offer valuable insight into this issue as well as the ability to engage people in the conversation where others cannot. Having students lead the effort and compensating them for their work is key.
  • The UW Student Housing and Food Insecurity Survey results come out next month which will help provide data about students’ housing needs.
  • Other universities that are tackling housing issues were addressed but none seem to try to address the problem comprehensively for students, faculty, and staff.
  • External partners to the UW are keen to hear about our work around housing solutions; keeping them involved is paramount.

Upcoming Dean’s Dialogue Discussion Topics:

(All at 7:30am, all in Architecture Hall Room 042 except the May 1st event, light breakfast will be provided)

Wed, April 24th: How would an applied research consortium work at CBE?

*Wed, May 1st: What does it mean to have a strategic approach to equity diversity and inclusion? *The Dean’s Dialogue Discussion on May 1st will take place in Gould 102.

Wed, May 15th: What would it mean if every CBE graduate, staff, faculty knew how to collaborate, really collaborate?

Wed, May 22nd: When we talk about CBE’s research having more impact, what do we mean and how do we measure it?

Please RSVP to Susanne Adamson at if you plan to attend any of the above sessions so that she can plan for refreshments.

OR Join the Livestream (Zoom)

Same link for all five meetings:

Dial-up is also available:

+1 669 900 6833 US – West

+1 646 876 9923 US – East

Meeting ID: 407 331 2015