Backing down from slow growth opposition and in a nod to a wave of bungalow nostalgia, Mayor Ed Murray announced Wednesday afternoon he will not support one of the most controversial — and possibly widely impactful — elements of the 60+ recommendations from his Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee.
Murray said Wednesday he will not support the recommendation that could have opened 94% of single-family zones in Seattle to more multi-family style development to help offset soaring rents.
In the announcement, the mayor blamed “sensationalized reporting by a few media outlets” for helping to create the backlash. “The Council and I created the HALA process because our city is facing a housing affordability crisis,” Murray is quoted as saying. “In the weeks since the HALA recommendations were released, sensationalized reporting by a few media outlets has created a significant distraction and derailed the conversation that we need to have on affordability and equity.”
UPDATE: Council president — and candidate for citywide Position 8 — Tim Burgess foreshadowed the announcement with an updated posted Tuesday about HALA’s recommendations:
While the list of recommendations from HALA is long, one specific policy has received the most attention and criticism from neighborhoods across Seattle. It’s the recommendation that single-family zoning be relaxed in all areas of the city to allow for new duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats, a policy some believe will lead to speculators buying up homes, tearing them down, and replacing them with more expensive multi-family structures. We should take a step back from any policy that leads to that kind of speculation, disruption, and the widespread loss of existing, more affordable housing.
Meanwhile, support for an alternative affordability plan galvanized Wednesday as a coalition of City Council candidates has pledged to pursue the plan from HALA member and Position 8 candidate Jon Grant. Grant’s plan calls for an expanded linkage fee program that includes residential development in order to fund construction of 9,000 units of affordable housing for households at 0-30% of area median income — 4,000 more units than recommended by the HALA committee. Grant would also dedicate 5,000 of those units towards homeless housing.
The full announcement from the mayor’s office is below.
Murray to focus on housing affordability in denser neighborhoods
SEATTLE (July 29, 2015) – Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement announcing he will not recommend pursuing a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee recommendation that could have changed 94 percent of single-family zones in Seattle. Instead, he is calling for renewed public dialogue on how best to increase affordable housing in denser neighborhoods:
“The Council and I created the HALA process because our city is facing a housing affordability crisis. In the weeks since the HALA recommendations were released, sensationalized reporting by a few media outlets has created a significant distraction and derailed the conversation that we need to have on affordability and equity.
“Fundamentally, this is a conversation about building a Seattle that welcomes people from all walks of life — where working people, low-income families, seniors, young people and the kids of current residents all can live in our city.
“We also must not be afraid to talk about the painful fact that parts of our city are still impacted by the intersection of income, race and housing. Look at a map and take a walk through our neighborhoods. We can move beyond the legacy of the old boundaries of exclusion that have remained largely unchanged since nearly a century ago when neighborhood covenants were used to keep people of color south of Madison Street.
“I have always believed that Seattle can step up and have a difficult conversation about our history of racial discrimination and economic inequality. Our shared vision for Seattle includes affordable housing and diversity in all our neighborhoods.
“To advance the broader conversation about affordable housing and equity, I will no longer pursue changes that could allow more types of housing in 94 percent of single-family zones. Instead, we will refocus the discussion on designing denser Urban Centers, Urban Villages and along transit corridors that include more affordable housing.”