Friends and Neighbors
Are there any affordable apartments left in Seattle? We won't know unless we get the data.
Seattle Fair Growth is urging emails by Friday July 1st to overturn Mayor Harrell's veto of a bill that would provide the amount of rent and number of bedrooms on every rental apartment in Seattle. The City Council voted 5-4 to pass the ordinance, with Councilmembers Sara Nelson, Debora Juarez, Teresa Mosqueda, and Dan Strauss opposed. If just one of them changes their vote, a 6-3 vote would overturn the veto.
Please email email@example.com with your request for reconsideration and copy the Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can, please call your Councilmember after you've written. Do this before Friday, July 1st, since that vote would be July 5th!
You can't manage what you can't measure. Councilmember Alex Pedersen sponsored CB 120325 because the City needs timely, reliable data on what rental housing is affordable and where, by zip code. This is the first step in fighting displacement and should be part of this year's Comprehensive Plan update. Yet the City has no definition of "affordable. It is in the eye of the beholder. When Dupre+Scott ceased operation, we lost the only reliable data we had. How can we expect the City to solve its housing crisis without an inventory?
Unfortunately, the Mayor relied on a letter from a Real Estate industry think tank at the UW, citing a cost of $2M to $5M and landlords' concern for proprietary data. However, other potential vendors estimate the cost of collecting this data as under $500,000. That's "budget dust" in a budget of more than $1.5 billion. If this isn't a priority, what is?
Concern for proprietary data that is advertised regularly on Craig's List is questionable. Adding a few fields (number of bedrooms, square footage, rent, date) to the Rental Registration & Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) database that already includes every rental apartment's address cannot be as expensive as the industry source claimed. "Similar laws to collect the data are already in place throughout the nation," CM Pedersen said.
There is no excuse for failure to collect data on rents as we make policies presuming to provide affordability. Having this data by zip code will allow the City to build a model of its housing stock, to better plan infrastructure investment and to move forward with policies to prevent displacement wherever it is occurring, especially in BIPOC communities.
Seattle Fair Growth urges you to forward this letter or, better, to pick a few ideas and write your own. Either way, please do it now, so city planners will no longer be flying blind without a map of affordability and a plan to avoid displacement.
Seattle Fair Growth
Jon Lisbin, President
Sarajane Siegfriedt, Treasurer
Gov. Inslee is asking for HB 1782, "Creating additional middle housing near transit and in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing" to address the statewide shortage of 250,000 units.
The bill requires Seattle to allow up to fourplexes on any formerly single-family lot within half a mile of frequent transit stops. It also requires Seattle to allow duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes on all lots zoned for single family residences or increase average denisity in residential areas.
While we all agree that we need more housing, the original bill was not supported by the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance or the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness because, as a Developer and Realtor backed bill, it does nothing for low-income affordable housing.
Nor does it avoid displacement of low-income families. Upzoning from single-family to multifamily greatly increases property taxes, since multifamily taxes are based on the potential for further development. It ignores cutting tree canopy and infrastructure issues such as parks and surface water runoff in our salmon streams.
It is just not good urban planning. Seattle's ADU law to add density by eliminating single-family neighborhoods, allowing 3 units on each lot and concentrating "missing middle housing" around transit is better for the environment. We have enough zoned capacity to meet our growth needs.
Seattle Fair Growth believes the Builders aren't lobbying for housing that will benefit low-, very-low and extremely low-income people.
Market urbanists preach trickle-down economics. It's proven not to work with housing supply. We have limited land, not widgets. According to studies, it takes 40 years to become affordable. The older stuff is almost always torn down because the land is more valuable than the housing, or it is rehabbed into new. It never becomes affordable. In fact, the only housing affordable to someone making less than 60% of Area Median Income ($46k or $23/hr) is subsidized housing.
If tents on public land are intolerable, we have to reverse the Reagan-era policies and build more subsidized housing, especially for people with disabilities. Reagan turned them out of institutions and broke his promise to build community-based housing. This is about homes for people who can't work, and about a minimum wage that doesn't pay the rent.
Sarajane Siegfriedt - Seattle Fair Growth
Established in 1973 as a Preservation Development Authority (PDA), Historic Seattle is the only
citywide nonprofit dedicated to saving meaningful places to foster lively communities. We are
keenly interested in future development and the role that older, historic buildings and
neighborhoods play in the shaping of Seattle. And by extension, we also care deeply about what
happens in the great state of Washington.
Historic Seattle is not opposed to change, growth, or increased density. We are developers
ourselves and own a portfolio of ten historic properties and have saved over 45 buildings.
For nearly 50 years, Historic Seattle has been bringing back to life threatened and neglected
historic properties throughout Seattle. Several of these projects provide a total of 48 units of
affordable housing, including Belmont/Boylston (“Bel-Boy”); Good Shepherd Center (artists’
live-work units); Victorian Row Apartments; and Phillips House.
Older buildings and neighborhoods are central to the retention of a diverse housing stock that
reduces income inequality and helps prevent displacement and gentrification. We share the
concern about the lack of affordable housing and housing options and support efforts to
address these important issues. Any statewide legislation should provide a more balanced
approach to achieving growth, taking into consideration the livability and quality of local
While the intent of providing more middle housing (particularly affordable housing) is good, we
do not support HB 1782 as written. It presents a statewide solution that does not consider the
diversity of local communities and how development impacts older neighborhoods (particularly
those with historic and cultural significance). We would like to see a more nuanced approach
than the legislation that is currently under consideration.
We feel strongly that preservation safeguards need to be added to the legislation to protect
historic resources—individual buildings/structures and districts placed on, or that have been
identified by a public agency as eligible for, inclusion on a national, state, or local historic
Rules that govern the types of housing to permit more options in our neighborhoods should
also follow new limits on size and scale so that new infill construction is compatible in existing
single-family neighborhoods. Good design and quality materials also benefit any development.
We acknowledge that historically, some older neighborhoods developed with a mix of housing
types and property types. We believe this contributes to the character of a neighborhood.
Older houses and other building types have been (and continue to be) rehabilitated and
adapted to create more housing, adding density within the structure or through expansion.
Historic preservation is part of the solution, not a hindrance.
Lastly, we would also like to see a historic preservation element be a requirement in
comprehensive planning at the local level. Presently, it’s an optional element under the Growth
Management Act. Historic preservation is often seen as an outlier in land use and development
regulation—it should be integrated and considered as an important piece of the whole.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Director of Preservation Services
1117 Minor Ave
Seattle, WA 98101