Seattle Mayor Endorses Plan to Develop Sharia-Compliant Mortgages

By Barbara Hollingsworth | July 24, 2015 | 5:04pm EDT
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. (AP photo)

( – Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has endorsed a recommendation by his affordable housing committee to develop Sharia-compliant mortgages as a way to help Muslims buy homes.

Paying or charging interest is prohibited under Islamic law, which views money “purely as a medium of exchange” and “therefore should not be allowed to give rise to more money,” according to the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance.

 “We will work to develop new tools for Muslims who are prevented from using conventional mortgage products due to their religious beliefs,” Murray said at a July 13 press conference.

The effort will be part of the mayor’s ambitious goal to increase the city’s housing by 50,000 units over the next decade.

The Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda sent to Murray and the Seattle City Council by the committee last week stated that the city is currently experiencing “a housing affordability crisis unlike any Seattle has experienced since the Second World War.”

According to Zillow, the median value of a home in Seattle is $504,000, which is more than twice the national median home value of $179,200.

There are now more than 3,000 homeless people living in Seattle, a 21 percent increase in the past year, city officials said, and the fourth highest homeless population of any major U.S. city.

“The crisis of housing affordability in Seattle is a true Gordian Knot,” caused by the competing interests of groups who are “politically powerful enough to block any single-sided proposal,” according to the report.

“Limited options for financing a home purchase are available for Muslim households who abide by Sharia law, which prohibits the payment of interest or fees for loans of money,” it noted.

“The City can help fill this gap by convening lenders, housing nonprofits, and community leaders to explore how the market might develop Sharia-compliant loan products. The City should evaluate current available loan products to determine barriers to their use due to religious or other restrictions.”

Also included in the committee’s 65 recommendations is “upzoning” areas of the city to allow developers more density in return for a mandatory percentage of all new units reserved as affordable housing, and changing city codes to accommodate backyard cottages and micro-housing in single-family neighborhoods.

The report acknowledges that adding “20,000 units of affordable housing and 30,000 new units of market rate housing” over the next 10 years is “a significant stretch for a city that, in the best of times, has created about 800 new affordable units in a year.” 

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