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If you hear somebody talking ‘Comp Plan’ in your favorite Capitol Hill cafe, it’s probably Housing Now shaping plan to take on Seattle’s restrictive zoning

Housing Now is a small group on a big mission

While the repealed Employee Hours Tax was not a Housing Now campaign, the Seattle group has learned from mistakes that were made. With new understanding of how things get done — or don’t — in Seattle, the group has vowed to take on the city’s restrictive zoning laws.

“The Comprehensive Plan stems from the Growth Management Act at the state level which requires every city and county to designate growth areas.” Housing Now’s Alex Broner said in a Sunday afternoon meeting earlier this month on 12th Ave across from Seattle University. “They took our already exclusive zoning system in 1994 and codified it into the City Comprehensive Plan.”

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Broner and the group’s members say Seattle zoning laws “need to shift the assumption from one where housing is something to be prevented in most of the city to one where it is to be encouraged.”

In Seattle, zoning laws — the rules for what kinds of buildings you can build and how big those buildings can be — can only be changed by updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Having started the Comp Plan aspect of Housing Now in March, the group is chipping away at the hurdles to a zoning update, allowing multifamily units in more areas of the city.

Housing First sees three areas of focus in the debate. The first is to try to explain why the current plan is “messing up our affordability.” According to Broner, the current plan is “preventing a lot more housing, it’s making the housing that is getting built more expensive, and it’s focusing housing in high displacement areas with low income renters.”

The second thrust is a deeper dive into not only the city’s Comprehensive Plan, but Seattle’s process of treat new housing as something suspicious that needs to be “vetted very carefully.”

The group hopes to call the new plan the “Welcoming Communities Framework, because that’s what this is all about,” Broner said, “You can’t say that you’re a welcoming community if you’re forbidding people from living in your community, by forbidding the housing they can afford, and new housing in general. Why aren’t we allowing multi-family units next to mansions? Why is that illegal? Is it because the mansion owners don’t want it? Is that a valid reason to prevent housing during a housing crisis?”

The third piece is the solution, and naturally, this early on in the process, it’s less detailed. “This is still a work in progress,” Broner said. “We have a few bullet points of things we want to see, but it’s not comprehensive yet. There’s more that could be included. If we’re updating something called the ‘Comp Plan’, then let’s have a really big update, not fiddle with it.”

The Housing Now effort, so far, is small. Seven people attended the work meeting CHS listened in on. Broner says the group goes through phases of attendance with 17 people having been involved so far and a core group of 12 or so that attend regular meetings.

Though topics ranged from MHA, HALA, and Accessory Dwelling Units, the majority of the time was spent talking about EHT and changing the City Comprehensive Plan. The group seems determined to pressure city council and the mayor to begin acting now as the comprehensive plan change is less of a legal challenge and more of a political one. “We’re planning events including a series of house parties and we need volunteers for all kinds of things, including planning additional events,” Broner said.

Housing Now meetings are generally every two weeks. The next one will be Sunday July 8th at Kaladi Brothers at 2 PM. UPDATE: Rescheduled! We’ve updated the meeting date.

Housing Now: Starting The Housing Party

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6 thoughts on “If you hear somebody talking ‘Comp Plan’ in your favorite Capitol Hill cafe, it’s probably Housing Now shaping plan to take on Seattle’s restrictive zoning

    • Exactly. The Seattle Times recently ran an article showing that vacancy rates are way up, and landlords are offering incentives to move in. This would certainly argue against the prevailing notion that we need more and more new housing, or that there is a “housing crisis.”

      Allowing multifamily housing in single family zones not only is not necessary, but it would destroy the character of Seattle.

      • Bob, as usual, you’re wrong. You’re going to reply stating that you’re right or that I’m wrong, but that will only make you doubly wrong.

        When I build a new home, it will sit vacant until I find the first tenant for it. This is normal. You have concluded that because a new home is not immediately rented, that home should not have been built in the first place. This is wrong. Homes shall be built so that they may be rented at a fair market rate. Your belief that homes are being built to sit empty, losing money for their rich owners, is rooted in fear and hatred of Others, not in fact. I’d encourage you to read more trustworthy news sources than the Seattle Times to learn how the housing market works, but we all know that you’ve made your mind up already.

        Take this criticism well, Bob. Your defensive reply will not be read. Use the time you would have spent arguing with me to educate yourself about economics. You have a wealth of information at your fingertips. I urge you to drink of it.

      • The Seattle Times is a trustworthy, middle-of-the road news source.

        You seem to have some sort of personal vendetta against me. Why don’t you just stop reading my comments?