Happy HALA Day! Three Things to Know Before the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Announcement

Mayor Ed Murray today will unveil his plan of action for tackling the affordable housing crisis in Seattle. The plan is the product of months of work by the Housing Affordability & Livability Agenda (HALA) committee, which he convened to hammer out the proposal.

The announcement comes at 11 a.m. Here are a few things to keep in mind before it does.

1. There’s already a rift: One member of the committee, Jon Grant, has already announced he will put forth an alternative proposal, which appears to have the backing of two city councilmembers, Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata. This isn’t a huge surprise. As Nina Shapiro reported for us in April, internal emails showed that Grant was long feeling alienated from the committee, which he felt was sacrificing effective policy in favor of consensus. Meanwhile, as also reported by Shapiro, “landlord and developer groups” tried to get Grant taken off the committee, ostensibly because he was running for office (city council, position 8), though the fact that he was also calling for rent control gave the appearance that they were trying to silence that voice.

2. Single-family zoning has been on the chopping block for months: A proposal included in a leaked, draft version of the report calls for the elimination of single-family zoning in the city, which would allow for slightly more dense neighborhoods across the city. This caused a firestorm of controversy last week, but the fact of the matter is that the committee was largely of one mind regarding the need for more density even in Seattle’s least urban areas. In an early brainstorming session weighing different ideas for making housing more affordable in Seattle, Shapiro reported, the most popular proposal “would allow denser development (two to three units per lot) and a variety of housing types (‘small lot dwellings,’ duplexes, triplexes and the like) in single-family zones—if indeed such zones even continue to exist. One HALA document refers to a suggestion that such areas be renamed ‘low-density’ zones.”

3. But neighborhoods probably won’t be the story today: It sounds as if the big flash point between the competing proposals today will be over how much developers should pay the city to help handle the impacts on housing affordability. As the Seattle Times reported this morning, the single-family housing suggestion “was one of more than 60 items suggested in the draft report, which was missing an important element that will feature prominently in the final version — a new strategy for making developers produce affordable housing.”

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