Dustbin of history
The Seattle Planning Commission recommended that city leadership consider opening up areas of the city currently zoned for single-family homes to denser types of housing. The move would create opportunities for more housing in a growing city.
Strategies include loosening rules around minimum lot sizes, enlarging denser urban village zones and allowing home conversions, among others.
Opponents of the plan believe that the move would destroy the “neighborhood character” of certain areas by promoting the destruction of homes in favor of expensive, new multi-unit dwellings. Proponents argue that existing single family homes are already being knocked down to build new, larger homes, colloquially called “McMansions.”
The number of people moving into the city far outstrips the production of new homes. According to the Planning Commission’s report, 26,900 people moved into the city of Seattle in 2016. That same year, only 6,487 units were added to the housing stock.
Scarcity of housing units means an increase in price, a set of circumstances that is positive for homeowners and negative for renters. In an era where both low-wage workers and white-collar laborers move to central cities in search of economic opportunity, a lack of housing units affordable to a range of incomes becomes an issue of equity.
A history of racist policies confined ownership opportunities for people of color to certain areas of the city. Places such as the Central District are now primed for gentrification, meaning hard-won gains are slipping away in the face of rising property taxes and increasing rents.
The Planning Commission recognized that.
“Expanding housing opportunities in single-family areas is necessary to uphold our obligation to provide accessible options for the next generation, as well as for workers who provide services in the city but can rarely afford to live here,” the commission wrote. “Enabling more people to attain a place to live throughout Seattle will help to remove the barriers that once institutionalized racial segregation and continue to threaten the health of our communities and households.”
Nearly 75 percent of the city that is zoned for housing is dedicated to single family homes. That is increasingly restrictive as more people move into the city. More than half of people in the world live in cities.
The city of Seattle has until the end of 2021 to complete the transfer process on the property formerly known as Fort Lawton.
The development has been under dispute since 2009, when the city was sued by multiple parties over the alleged inadequacy of the environmental analysis it conducted in advance of preparing the site for development. The Seattle Hearing Examiner ruled against that challenge at the end of November.
That still means that the City Council has to approve a redevelopment plan and submit it to the Department of Housing and Urban Development by the end of 2019. The decisions to approve the plan and to rezone the property can both be challenged in court, according to the Office of Housing.
Whether or not the federal government will allow the city to exceed its deadlines on the project remains to be seen.
Real Change has joined other news outlets in demanding that outside officials undertake a review of city officials’ use of private email accounts and other media.
Multiple local journalists have requested documents to which they are legally entitled, only to discover that they did not receive all of the relevant information before their request was closed.
Kevin Schofield, the reporter behind the whistleblower website SCC Insight, spearheaded the effort. Independent journalist Erica C. Barnett and journalists and editors from Crosscut and The Stranger signed on,
The requested audit will apparently not be conducted by the city’s auditor’s office, because it exists in the same office of government that the journalists requested be reviewed. It was forwarded to the State Auditor’s Office.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has taken a stand against the Trump administration’s proposal to deny access to green cards to people who use public benefits including food stamps, health care or rent support.
The proposed rule would expand the concept of “public charge” from people who are “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence,” to include people who use benefits like government-delivered health insurance and food benefits.
“This more stringent public charge determination poses a danger to our communities and to our City,” Durkan wrote in a blog post. “The new barrier imposed by the Trump administration would force people and families to choose between reuniting with their loved ones and accessing crucial services like health care, housing assistance and other public benefits.”
According to the press release, the proposed changes would impact 51,186 immigrants living in the city of Seattle, plus 33,185 people who live in households with people who are subject to the change. It would also reduce health care access.
“Like so many things the current administration implements, the rule appears to attempt to solve a problem that does not actually exist,” Durkan wrote. “Time and again, we have seen this administration continue their cruel, divisive, and unlawful attacks on our immigrant and refugee neighbors.”
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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