BURIED UNDER a sea of acronyms like MOA, HUD, OH, and NOFA (don't even ask) was a rare bit of good news for critics of the Rainier Vista public housing complex redevelopment. An agreement between the city and the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) will set the number of replacement units for very poor Rainier Vista residents at approximately 385—not the 192 the SHA originally proposed.
Rainier Vista residents and low-income-housing advocates were furious last week when SHA said it would only reserve 192 new homes for the very poor after it tears down the 481 existing homes (see News Clips, "Rainier Erupts," Aug. 16). Under the new proposal, which faces another round of debates at a Sept. 11 public hearing, 80 percent of the replacement housing will serve Seattleites who make less than 30 percent of the area's median income. (An escape clause allows that number to be trimmed to 60 percent if the project's federal funding is reduced.)
Not everyone's thrilled with the Rainier revisions. "We say we want more low-income and workforce housing, and here we have a housing authority that can do that and put more in, yet we're restricting it by restricting the density too much," says City Council member Judy Nicastro. She believes that the 14-acre site, slated to hold just over 1,000 one-to-five-bedroom homes, could hold as many as 300 more units without compromising its planners' dreams of a mixed-use, mixed-income urban village. SHA deputy executive director Al Levine demurred at a Monday morning hearing on the subject, saying, "I don't personally believe there are opportunities for tremendous increases in density."
Meanwhile, the project's chief opponent, the Seattle Displacement Coalition, maintains that the agreement is "fraught with problems." The biggest, according to coalition head John Fox, is that the "real" number of public housing units—those that aren't reserved exclusively for the elderly and disabled—is actually closer to 210, not 385. Moreover, Fox says, 80 percent is "still less than [SHA] committed to, to the residents of the community and the public at large," when redevelopment plans were first announced more than two years ago. "It's just unbelievable."
Erica C. Barnett