Seattle is still all abuzz with talk about Mayor Ed Murray's Housing Affordability and Livability committee (aka HALA) and its recommendations for making this city a more affordable and equitable place to live. And we should be abuzz. Our housing market is out of control, and we need effective, achievable solutions. Unfortunately, much of the conversation about HALA has been downright confusing or simply wrong.
All of the HALA recommendations would help us build a more affordable, livable city, but let’s not lose sight of the forest through the trees. That’s what happened in Ansel Herz’s September 1 post about a Grand Bargain press conference announcing legislation to move forward on the core of the HALA committee's recommendations—the “Grand Bargain” between housing advocates and developers, which will in fact build THOUSANDS of new affordable homes in Seattle over the next decade.
Before delving into the details of the Grand Bargain, it’s important to note that the HALA recommendations are an extraordinarily broad and comprehensive collection of policies crafted to address Seattle’s affordability crisis by taking concrete steps to build a just and fair city. Our housing challenges are intensely complex, and that requires many complicated (read: not easily captured in a tweet) solutions. So we understand why some (including the Slog) were disappointed about the decision to not pursue changes to single family zones to allow more housing types. But to be clear: unlike the Grand Bargain, those changes would not have built a single new income-restricted home.
Instead, PLEASE, FOR SEATTLE’S SAKE, let’s focus on what will: the “Grand Bargain.”
We applaud the leadership of Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council for bringing us to this moment. This landmark agreement builds on the progress housing advocates have worked so hard for over the last 20 years. For the first time ever, the city will require all new commercial and residential multi-family developers to directly contribute toward addressing our need for affordable housing. This is a fundamental shift in how we manage growth and how we provide affordability in our city. Once this legislation passes, private developers will be required to more fairly contribute towards Seattle’s affordability.
It is no accident that the same Growing Together Coalition that came together to support a linkage fee last year wholeheartedly supports the Grand Bargain, which includes a commercial linkage fee on all commercial development and mandatory inclusionary housing for all new multi-family buildings. This kind of policy has been in the making for nearly TWO DECADES, and now it’s achievable. Additionally, according to city estimates, the Grand Bargain will create hundreds MORE affordable homes than expected from the linkage fee, totaling 6,000 over the next decade.
We understand that land use and developer fees may put some to sleep, but we cannot stress this enough: IT’S A BIG, HUGE FREAKIN’ DEAL. Over the next decade, it will directly result in 6,000 more housing opportunities for Seattle’s hotel and restaurant workers, baristas, hospital workers, homecare workers, janitors and yes, even alt-weekly journalists. It means those who are taking care of our city, like Michael Scott, a healthcare worker who spoke at the September 1 press conference about being priced out of Seattle, might just be able to live in our city.
As was said at the public launch of the Grand Bargain legislation, this is the beginning of a conversation with Seattle. It’s a conversation about how we build a city with vibrant, inclusive, and economically diverse neighborhoods. It’s a conversation about how we ensure everyone who works in Seattle can afford to live in Seattle. We hope Slog readers will join us in this conversation. The HALA recommendations involve some big and very bold ideas, none more so than a commercial linkage fee and mandatory inclusionary housing for all new commercial and multifamily development. The city council is holding a public hearing to discuss these proposals today at 5:30 p.m. We encourage everyone who cares about building a more affordable Seattle to join us in support of the Grand Bargain.
Kelly Rider is the Policy Director for the Housing Development Consortium Seattle-King County. Stefan Moritz works for the hotel workers' union UNITE HERE Local 8 and is a Board Member for Puget Sound Sage. Rachael Myers is the Executive Director, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.