Ever since the mayor's big housing affordability committee, known as HALA, released its recommendations in July, much of the news has been about all the disagreement it created among people with big stakes in these issues.
Some city council candidates said the recommendations didn't go far enough. One developer advocate cast doubt on whether builders will stick to one key piece of the plan. Others have questioned whether it will actually pencil out to create more affordable housing.
And that's all without even talking about the backlash to some of the most controversial work in the plan: upzones that would allow for more density in the city's single-family zones.
Now, a new group wants to talk about where people agree in supporting the HALA recommendations. (Looking for a refresher on all the stuff that's in those HALA recommendations? Read this.)
The group, calling itself "Seattle for Everyone," sent a letter to the mayor and city council this week saying the recommendations "represent a sea-change in affordable housing politics in Seattle." I put the whole thing at the bottom of this post because it's worth a read, but the real interest is in the lengthy list of signers at the bottom.
That list includes developers, residents, and representatives from groups like the Sightline Institute, Futurewise, the Housing Development Consortium, and the Downtown Seattle Association. (The Housing Development Consortium is especially notable, as Publicola pointed out, because that group advocated strongly for linkage fees developers had previously opposed.)
Land use and housing policy are two things that simultaneously bore most regular people and attract the most passionate arguments inside City Hall. Housing affordability advocates and developers have long been at odds, and both sides have been up against NIMBYS who are scared of any increased density or low-income renters changing the "character" of their neighborhoods. (Of course, there are nuances within all those groups, but those are the general divisions.)
We saw how powerful anti-growth forces can be this summer when hysteria stoked by the Seattle Times pushed the mayor to back away from even talking about two key recommendations in HALA that would have increased density. When the city council starts considering upzones next year, we're going to see that hysteria return.
So it's significant to see developers and affordability advocates ready to stand together and say, "We are all in favor of more density and we're here to make sure that you, members of the Seattle City Council, make it happen." If they do that instead of using their energy fighting against each other, it could be crucial for making sure the HALA recommendations actually happen, no matter how many angry NIMBYs cry in city council chambers.
It will also be important for conveying to the general public what the HALA recommendations really do and don't say. They do, for example, call for more density in just six percent single-family zones that are near areas known as urban villages. (Those are places like downtown, Ballard, the U-District, and parts of the Rainier Valley.) They don't call for bulldozing every single-family house in the city.
Ryan Bayne, a consultant who represents Vulcan and other developers, explained the thinking to me last week: "Let’s turn our swords into plowshares. Let’s work together for the next several years. The amount of wrangling the last several years has been intense and draining. The opportunity to move forward and be done with that is a big deal."
Here's Seattle for Everyone's full letter:
October 20, 2015
Committee Chair Mike O’Brien
Seattle City Council
Select Committee on Housing Affordability P.O. Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025
Re: Council Bill 118498 and Mandatory Housing Affordability program implementation
We are writing on behalf of a broad coalition of affordable housing developers and advocates, for-profit developers and businesses, labor and social justice advocates, environmentalists and urbanists, united together to build an equitable, prosperous, thriving, and inclusive Seattle by ensuring that the benefits of the city’s growth are shared by all current and future residents – from those struggling with homelessness to wage-earners and families. Under the banner Seattle for Everyone, we urge your strong support for the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) and the “Grand Bargain” provisions to produce and preserve critically needed affordable and market-rate housing in the City of Seattle.
We believe that the HALA recommendations represent the first ever comprehensive package of affordable housing policies that will provide for a growing, inclusive city over the coming decades. And at the center of this comprehensive set of strategies is the newly renamed Mandatory Housing Affordability-Commercial and Mandatory Housing Affordability-Residential programs, and the required upzones to implement both. The proposal is a smart balance of developer requirements and additional building capacity. These are critical and need to be adopted as proposed. The Grand Bargain will produce and preserve a record number of income-restricted units, accommodate population growth without sacrificing affordability, and leverage our significant public investments in light rail and bus transit by creating more opportunities for households of all incomes to live within easy access to jobs and schools. While MHA-Commercial and the associated upzones are the centerpiece of the Grand Bargain, the less headline-catching recommendations of tenant protections and review process reform are also essential.
Collectively, these recommendations represent a sea-change in affordable housing politics in Seattle. Now, a new alliance forged by common interests and shared objectives has put forth HALA and the Grand Bargain. We are excited to continue this game-changing alliance to build a diverse, equitable, and prosperous Seattle where the benefits of growth are shared by all. It is only fitting then that we have chosen to name our effort “Seattle for Everyone.”
The Seattle for Everyone coalition is built on the foundation of the HALA report and the Grand Bargain— and each of their components is critical to keeping this alliance together. Furthermore, the ambitious production targets for both market-rate and affordable housing can only be achieved through adoption of the whole package. Accordingly, we implore you to consider HALA and the Grand Bargain as a comprehensive proposal, rather than a menu from which to pick and choose. We urge you to adopt the numerous pieces of legislation required to implement HALA and the Grand Bargain and to minimize changes that would pit one faction against another, leading to more uncertainty, wasteful delay, less affordability and less housing supply. While we understand and respect the legislative process, the importance of following through on the HALA recommendations cannot be understated.
We look forward to working with you as you continue to implement HALA and the Grand Bargain. It is our hope that we can stand together several years from now and celebrate the HALA legacy of real affordability and livability for our city.
Adam Dodge, Columbia City resident
Alan Durning, Executive Director, Sightline Institute
A-P Hurd, Touchstone Barrientos, LLC
Beacon Development Group
Ben Broesamle, Magnolia resident Benjamin Gould, Fremont homeowner
Bridgette Maryman, NewHolly resident
Capitol Hill Housing
Charles R. Wolfe, Attorney at Law
Charlie Cuniff, Columbia City resident
Chris Rule, Greenwood resident Compass Housing Alliance
Dan Bertolet, Central District resident
Dave Freeburg, Belltown resident
David Moseley, Alliance for Pioneer Square
David Rolf, President, SEIU 775
El Centro de la Raza
Faith Pettis, Partner, Pacifica Law Group
Greg Smith, CEO, Urban Visions
Joe Geivett, Emerald Bay Equity
Jon Scholes, President and CEO, Downtown Seattle Association
Jonathan Hopkins, Denny Triangle resident
Josh Brower, Veris Law Group PLLC
Katherine F. Mackinnon, Ravenna resident
Keith Kyle, Olympic Manor resident
Kelly Rider, Director of Government Relations & Policy, Housing Development Consortium Seattle-King County
Mark Barbieri, Washington Holdings
Matt Gangemi, Queen Anne resident
Matthew Johnson Columbia City resident
Maud Daudon, President & CEO, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Melissa Jonas, Beacon Hill resident
Mercy Housing Northwest
Mike Eliason, Fremont father
Mytoan Nguyen-Akbar, Lake City resident
Phillip Duggan, Pinehurst resident
Puget Sound Sage
Renee Staton, Pinehurst resident
Rob Harrison, Harrison Architects
Ryan Bayne, Coalition for Housing Solutions
SAGE Architectural Alliance
Sara Maxana, Ballard resident
Scott Matthews, Sr. Director, Residential Development, Vulcan Real Estate
Seattle Subway, transit advocacy organization
Sharon Coleman, Board President, NAIOP
Tim Weyand, CEO, NK Architects
Transportation Choices Coalition
Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
Zachary Pullin, Capitol Hill resident