Friday morning, the Seattle City Council is taking its first steps toward forming a first of its kind commission to represent renters at City Hall. Formation of the Seattle Renters’ Commission comes as rents for the first time in ages appear to possibly be softening on Capitol Hill — but immediately lower rents aren’t necessarily the goal. The city is going to need political help widening the new apartment pipeline to keep new construction in motion and new apartments coming into the Seattle market.
“Rising rents are pushing residents out of the city, and that’s unacceptable,” Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien representing Northwest Seattle’s District 6 said. “Low-income renters are nearly twice as likely as homeowners to be displaced by gentrification. I believe that the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring much needed perspective to our policy work about how we can grow equitably and inclusively.”
O’Brien is talking about lots of things — Source of Income Discrimination and Move In Fees legislation, enforcement of existing laws like the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, and the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance — but he is also, of course talking about HALA. Continue reading
Miller Park from above (Image: CHS)
The crowd at a recent Miller Park neighborhood meeting to discuss the HALA proposals (Image courtesy Andrew Taylor)
Some Miller Park residents are not happy with the proposed zoning changes for their neighborhood in the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.
Those residents will get an opportunity to voice their thoughts in small group discussions following a presentation on HALA, Urban Villages, and the Mandatory Housing Affordability proposal at a Community Design Workshop at 6 PM on Tuesday at the Miller Community Center.
Spencer Williams, a legislative assistant to City Council member Rob Johnson, said the input collected from community members at the workshop as well as from open houses the city has hosted and online and elsewhere will be analyzed by the Office of Planning and Community Development.
Madison-Miller Urban Village Community Design Workshop
“The meeting is happening many months prior to there being a final proposal before the council,” Williams told CHS. “We are really trying to stay engaged early.” Continue reading
The scene at last fall’s Capitol Hill Renter Summit
A pin map showing where around the Hill Summit attendees lived (Image: @outseide
Capitol Hill’s calls for a Seattle Renters’ Commission will soon be answered creating what is likely the first such official body in the nation.
CHS has learned legislation to create a 15-member commission to represent tenants rights and weigh in on issues of development and affordability could be introduced as early as Monday.
“The goal is to attract folks across the whole spectrum,” the Capitol Hill Community Council’s Zachary DeWolf said. “Families, seniors, geographic diversity, vouchers, newer units, older units. Everyone.”
The offices of Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess, Mike O’Brien, and Lisa Herbold have been working to finalize the proposal that comes as Seattle residents continue to face one of the most expensive rental markets… in the world.
At Northgate’s Idris Mosque Tuesday morning, Mayor Ed Murray gave his 2017 State of the City address, announcing plans to increase investments to further address homelessness and education disparities, and to continue to support immigrants and refugees in Seattle. Included in the speech were plans to activate a city emergency system usually reserved for bad weather and protests to provide more resources for helping the area’s homeless, a proposal for a $55 million property levy to fund homelessness services, and the floating of a possible Seattle soda tax to help fund schools. Video and the full text of Murray’s speech is below.
For Seattle, the biggest news of the speech will likely be the homeless levy proposal. The plan will go to city voters this August to ask them to approve an increase in the commercial and residential property tax of around $13 per month for the median household, according to the mayor’s office. Murray said that a coalition including entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, Downtown Emergency Services Center executive director Daniel Malone, and City Council members Debora Juarez and Sally Bagshaw will lead an advisory group to create the funding package for the proposal.
The mayor also announced a new offensive to push back on Trump administration immigration policies. Murray said the city will send Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple federal departments, including the Department of Homeland Security, in response to President Donald Trump’s actions affecting immigrants and refugees. Murray is seeking to determine potential enforcement actions the federal government may take against Seattle and other sanctuary cities and details about changes to travel and immigration policy.
“We believe that the rule of law is on our side,” Murray said, adding that Seattle will take legal action if the federal departments do not provide timely responses.
Murray’s State of the City announcements:
Murray said he also plans to meet with other regional mayors to about remaining safe sanctuary cities.
“Remaining open to all is a fundamental value of the city,” Murray said. “Seattle is a great city because of immigrants and refugees.” Continue reading
As the city rolled out its Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda roadshow last month, CHS reported on a split on Capitol Hill — those living in already dense areas generally support the proposed upzones and changes, while those living in less dense areas generally, well, don’t. That fault line is especially apparent around the Miller Park neighborhood where the area around the Miller Community Center is slated for a boost to mostly 40-feet for townhouses, row houses, or apartments with 7 to 10% affordability. Near the southeast corner of the Miller Playfield a 50-foot zone and 11% affordability is proposed.
Other areas of Capitol Hill that sill have a strong presence of single family-style homes like North Capitol Hill are insulated from the HALA proposals. But many Miller Park residents, apparently, are feeling exposed. A longtime neighborhood group is being rejuvenated as the Miller Park Neighbors have organized a “critical meeting” on the HALA proposals next week:
Join Your Neighbors to Protect Miller Park Neighborhood!
CRITICAL MEETING Feb. 15, 2017 Continue reading
Last summer, CHS reported on progress in easing the construction of backyard rentals to help combat Seattle’s affordability crisis. The progress has since ground to a halt. Wednesday, the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative and Latino LGBTQ nonprofit Entre Hermanos are teaming up for a movie night and discussion at 12th Ave’s Northwest Film Forum to sort out how the groups “can take action on backyard cottages and other housing justice campaigns” —
Housing Justice Movie Night-Quinceañera
This event was created in response to the recent decision by the Seattle hearing examiner to indefinitely delay an ordinance that would make it easier for homeowners to build backyard cottages (legally called Detached Accessory Dwelling Units or DADUs) like the home the main characters share in the movie. The hearing examiner decision came after a legal challenge by the Queen Anne Community Council, a neighborhood group that hired attorneys in order to delay these low cost housing options from coming to their neighborhood.
You can register for a “ticket” to the event here. The screening is free but organizers are asking for a $3 donation to help cover costs.
CHS wrote here last month on the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative’s goals for 2017.
While the young urbanists of Capitol Hill might be disappointed the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda zoning change proposals for Broadway probably won’t create three-hundred-foot apartment towers, Seattle officials are ready to face opposition in other parts of the neighborhood where even relatively modest height boosts are planned,
Generally speaking, Jesseca Brand with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods said, residents in already dense areas, especially on Capitol Hill and First Hill are more accepting and see the proposed changes being pounded out through 2017 as a good thing. Areas on Eastern Capitol Hill, to the south, and in the Central District where single-family streets are more common are more apprehensive and are concerned about “cultural and economic displacement.”
“Our hope is that the community feels they can shape this program neighborhood by neighborhood,” Brand said at last week’s HALA open house organized by city planners in a more fun than you would expect for this kind of session venue — Capitol Hill’s Optimism Brewing. Sometimes a drink is required when discussing the future of Seattle’s central neighborhoods. Continue reading
Wednesday night on Capitol Hill includes two different tenant rights meetings. Maybe 2017 really is the year of the renter.
To start the new year, CHS told you about a new series of free bootcamps to hep educate tenants across Seattle. The first Be:Seattle Tenant Rights Bootcamp is Wednesday night from 6:30 to 8:00 PM at Summit Ave’s Top Pot.
Wednesday also brings the monthly gathering of a longer-term effort to help politically — and tactically — organize tenants on Capitol Hill. Alex Brennan of Capitol Hill Housing’s EcoDistrict effort tells CHS the nonprofit is looking forward to the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative growing more and more independent in 2017 starting with its first meeting of the new year from 6 to 7 PM at 12th Ave Arts.
“The big thing is we’re moving towards renters taking on more leadership and more responsibility from Capitol Hill Housing staff,” Brennan said. Continue reading
(Image: Jon Grant for Seattle City Council)
(Image: Seattle Democracy Vouchers)
Jon Grant ran for the seat in 2015, and this year he’s going for the same City Council Position 8 with a platform focused on affordable housing and tenant rights — and being one of the first publicly financed candidates ever in Seattle.
Grant, former director of the Tenants Union, announced his bid back in November with a challenge to supporters to raise 400 $10 donations in the city’s new Democracy Voucher program. He exceeded that by getting 560 vouchers averaging $16 to fund his campaign.
“We had a tremendous response,” Grant said. Grant has already received more donations for this campaign than his entire 10-month campaign in 2015.
Here’s how the voucher program works. Earlier this month, registered voters began getting four $25 in vouchers in the mail. Seattle residents who are at least 18 years old and are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident can apply online for vouchers. Each voucher has the election year, resident’s name, a voucher identification number, and may have a voter ID number and barcode to help with signature verification. All contributions are public information. Continue reading