Capitol Hill renters might be getting slightly better deal in 2017 — but new commission is about more than rents

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Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.25 PM Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.31 PMFriday 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

Neighborhood by neighborhood, Seattle working out HALA and Mandatory Housing Affordability changes

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

Miller Park Neighbors make call to ‘protect’ neighborhood from affordability proposals

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-4-13-52-pmAs 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

HALA Capitol Hill: The dense want it denser — the not so dense, not so much

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

Beer and upzoning: Brewery venue for Capitol Hill HALA Open House

City officials want your feedback on the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda and planned zoning changes  and they’re prepared to use snacks to get it.

Next Tuesday, January 10th, representatives from city departments will be on hand at Capitol Hill’s Optimism Brewing for a Central Seattle HALA Open House:

HALA Central Neighborhoods Community Meeting

HALA has produced proposals for upzoning areas across Seattle and Capitol Hill changes that would allow taller buildings in the neighborhoods around Capitol Hill Station and concentrate seven-story office towers just off Broadway. HALA changes in the Central District were set up to be even meatier.

Though there will NOT be free beer (“Beer is available for purchase but will not be provided by the City”), the invite sounds like a good time for you involved types who, ya know, care about the future of the city, and stuff:

We’ll be highlighting maps that show draft neighborhood affordable housing proposals (read more about those here). In addition, there will be opportunities to learn about transportation projects in your neighborhood, hear what’s going on at the Office of Sustainability and Environment, and give feedback on upcoming Parks investments.

The January 10th all-ages session with “casual conversation around proposed changes to your neighborhood” will be part of an ongoing process to shape and finalize the proposals over the year.

How the CD could be re-zoned to meet City Hall’s affordable housing goals

if you build it....

mha-cdWith even more competing interests than on Capitol Hill, the effort to forge a new pro-affordability zoning scheme for the Central District has resulted in quite a complex map.

Earlier, CHS looked at Capitol Hill’s portion of the 15% of Seattle slated to be re-zoned to allow for taller buildings as part of Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

The Central District is poised for even more transformation.

Most of the affected zones throughout the city (Central District included) would get the standard “HALA bump” — a one story increase in allowable building height along with new “mandatory housing affordability” requirements for all new residential construction. As part of Seattle’s “Grand Bargain,” MHA will link the creation of affordable housing with market-rate development by requiring all new multifamily buildings to make 5-11% of their units affordable or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund. Continue reading

Six important things about the proposed affordability zoning changes on Capitol Hill

mha_draft_zoning_changes_first_hill_capitol_hill15% of Seattle is slated to be rezoned to allow for taller buildings as part of Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. The largest concentration of rezones includes a swath of land covering downtown, Capitol Hill, and the Central District.

Most of the area’s multifamily housing zones would get the standard “HALA bump” — a one story increase in allowable building height along with new “mandatory housing affordability” requirements for all new residential construction. As part of Seattle’s “Grand Bargain,” MHA will link the creation of affordable housing with market-rate development by requiring all new multifamily buildings to make 5-11% of their units affordable or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund. That part of the program has already been approved by City Council. Over the next year the city will hammer out how to handle the zoning.

Much of the First Hill-Capitol Hill urban center residential zones would receive the one-story bump along with a requirement that all new development include 5-7% of affordable units. Some would be required to meet higher affordability mandates. But the devil is in the details, and there are plenty of details to sift through when it comes to the zoning maps on Capitol Hill.

1. Auto-row incentives (probably) maintained

The Pike/Pine Conservation District is a unique incentive zoning program in Seattle responsible for most of the auto-row preservation projects on Capitol Hill. Changes proposed under the HALA map appear to undercut the program, but a upcoming tweak to the building code would likely keep those incentives in play.

Under the preservation program, developers get to build seven stories instead of six for preserving an old building facade in Pike/Pine. In the proposed HALA map, an up-zone in Pike/Pine would automatically allow for seven-story buildings. While preserving a facade would still get developers a one extra story, it seems unlikely they would take it. Building codes mandate that any building higher than seven stories must be entirely concrete or steel framed instead of wood, making an eight-story project vastly more expensive. Continue reading

City Council considers 14 amendments to Seattle’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on affordable housing

A small crowd watches the old Marion Apartments building come down at Pine and Bellevue in 2012

A small crowd watches the old Marion Apartments building come down at Pine and Bellevue in 2012

Seattle City Council members have put forward 14 amendments to Mayor Ed Murray’s cornerstone affordable housing legislation, including one intended to help replace cheap apartments demolished during the city’s recent construction boom.

Last year, Murray unveiled his “Grand Bargain” with developers, where building size bonuses would be given for a payment or performance system that requires multi-family developers either make 5% to 8% of units income restricted or pay a fee into an affordable housing fund.

The Mandatory Affordable Housing measure is expected to create 6,000 income restricted units over the next 10 years. However, City Council member Lisa Herbold says the city has demolished roughly the same amount of “affordable” apartments over the past decade, particularly in desirable neighborhoods. Continue reading

Can’t have nice things? How Capitol Hill renters can help Seattle sort out affordability

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“We do know that homeowners have participated more in the past. but we’re also looking for folks who are generally not participating in these kinds of conversations.”

As the Seattle City Council begins to slowly sift through and implement the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee’s recommendations to address the city’s housing supply, city departments are conducting public outreach on HALA — partly through community focus groups made up of members of the public. While for many currently living on Capitol Hill, any improvements will likely come long after we’re priced out of the neighborhood, the optimistic and altruistic should consider joining the fight.

Also, the city needs you! The most recent applicant demographic breakdown from the department of neighborhoods reveals a skewed applicant pool. Out of a total of 238 applicants to date, those from the north Seattle neighborhoods of Wallingford, Phinney-Ridge, and Ballard are still overly represented (with 26, 20, and 18 applicants respectively). Next up is the area surrounding 23rd Ave between Union and Jackson in the Central District with 13 applicants, then North Beacon Hill with 12 and Capitol Hill with 9 (or 4% of the total applicants). Other neighborhoods throughout the city have pitched eight or fewer applicants.

Kathy Nyland, director of the Department of Neighborhoods, says that even though the applicant demographics are skewed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the final composition of the focus groups will be similarly disproportional. The ideal is to have a healthy mix of both renters, homeowners, and “traditionally underrepresented groups including minorities, immigrants, refugees, and non-native English speakers.” There are no minimum quotas for each of those demographics, but diversity will be kept in mind while choosing applicants, Nyland said.

“We do know that homeowners have participated more in the past. but we’re also looking for folks who are generally not participating in these kinds of conversations,” said Nyland.

The focus groups are still being put together and the Department of Neighborhoods is currently accepting applications from interested citizens until February 26th. Their stated purpose is to “guide implementation of the [HALA] agenda.” “We are asking residents from neighborhoods across the city to participate as volunteers to inform the HALA process. A key focus of the Community Focus Groups will be land use and zoning changes that could affect neighborhoods,” the application for interested citizens reads. Continue reading

Proposal would prohibit rent hikes on dilapidated properties — Capitol Hill building eyed

(Image: Seattle City Council)

(Image: Seattle City Council)

Wednesday at City Hall, Seattle City Council members and frequent collaborators Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant announced legislation that would prevent landlords from raising rents by 10% or more on units that have unaddressed housing code violations. While far from a broad application, the move could represent Seattle’s first step around statewide limits on rent control following a resolution to challenge the ban.

“[The legislation] will prohibit landlords from forcing any rent increase while a unit suffers from any conditions that lead to unsafe or unhealthy living conditions. The landlord must remedy such defects before implementing any rent increase,” Licata said, flanked by tenants of the Columbia City property, a representative of the Tenants Union, and Sharon Lee, the executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute.

“The city has a responsibility to make every legal avenue possible to defend tenants’ rights,” Sawant said.

Sawant also called out a Capitol Hill building as an example where, council staff tells CHS, it “appears the landlord is avoiding paying tenant relocation assistance by raising rents significantly to force tenants out, and then carrying out major renovations.” CHS is investigating the claim and will have more information on the situation soon.

The ordinance comes as a response to the controversy surrounding a Columbia City apartment complex, where rents were raised by the property’s new landlord on tenants who were living with cockroaches, mold, fault appliances, and other substandard conditions. According to the Department of Planning and Development, the property suffered from over 200 housing code violations. Continue reading