Affordable Housing for Every Neighborhood

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Today is a very big day for the Planning, Land Use & Zoning committee, as we will vote to send our Mandatory Housing Affordability – Residential (MHAR) framework to Full Council for consideration on Monday, August 15, 2016. As our city continues to grow I believe this framework will help make our city more affordable to people of all walks of life. I anticipate today’s conversation to focus on proposed amendments to the program, three of which I will be bringing to the Committee discussion. These three amendments reflect and respond to some of what I’ve heard out in the community, as I knocked on doors during campaign season, as I have attended neighborhood council meetings throughout my district and across the city, and as I have received comments from folks who took the time to mail, phone, or visit City Hall.

My first amendment proposes more reporting and accountability; I believe we need more review at earlier stages so we can have the flexibility to make changes down the road if things need to be fixed or updated. My second amendment adds specific criteria considering that housing built with payments will be located near market rate housing to ensure we benefit from affordable housing in all our neighborhoods. And my third amendment increases the terms of affordability specifically for units built on site from 50 to 75 years.

Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien, my fellow colleagues on the Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee, will also be bringing amendments to the table today. These amendments specifically addresses how MHAR can help deal with the challenges of displacement, a multifaceted issue which will require a coordinated solutions across many departments and initiatives.

These amendments also call out home ownership opportunities, which have always been important wealth building tools for Seattle families. I appreciate these proposed changes as they help address issues of displacement and home ownership and keep these at the forefront of our discussions around MHAR and represent important lenses through which we need to view this program.

Amendment discussion aside, I think today’s committee vote is an incredibly important step toward implementing a mandatory affordable housing program. I also believe it’s important that all developers will be a part of the solution by contributing to affordable housing (either in units or in lieu fees), and that, when added to the commercial framework adopted last year, vastly expands the scope of where the program will apply.

Should the legislation pass through committee today, it will be a huge milestone as we work toward our City’s goal to build and/or preserve 20,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years. Resulting from years of negotiation and compromise, MHAR is one of the most ambitious efforts Seattle has ever undertaken to address our growing need for affordable housing and will have a very real impact on current residents and future generations of Seattleites.