Can We Achieve Social Equity
Using Smart Growth?
Monday, Sept. 20, 2010, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Council Chambers, Second floor, City Hall
600 Fourth Ave, Seattle 98104
Displacement Coalition is a sponsor of this following important event and we
strongly urge you to attend. Please help with turnout by circulating this
announcement. Our hope that what comes out of this forum will be the basis
for getting our Mayor and City Council to implement new solutions designed to
help us preserve what remains of our low income housing stock in the face of
runaway growth and major plans for upzones across the city. Trees must be
saved, our streams protected, our open space saved, and so should our low income
housing stock. Please plan on attending if you possibly can!!! We give this
our four star rating!
Join the Seattle City Council as we discuss:
This interactive forum will include the success stories of proven policies and programs and a discussion of how to take practical steps to make our Seattle’s urban growth work for everyone, regardless of background or income level. PANEL SPEAKERS:
1. Connie Galambos Malloy, Urban Habitat Director of Programs How does the living wage job/affordable housing mismatch in some regions undermine the carbon neutrality goals of sustainability advocates?
2 Professor Dennis Keating Why do new development and higher rents on one or two or three properties set off price increases on surrounding older properties?
3. Sarah Treuhaft, PolicyLink Senior Associate What is the Equitable Development Tool Kit? Why is it important to use and how do we use it?
There will be ample time given over the Q and A and comments following presentations in an effort to find consensus around some possible solutions. Please join us!
SPONSORS INCLUDE: Councilmember Nick Licata, Councilmember Sally J. Clark, Housing Development Consortium, The InterfaithTask Force on Homelessness, The Seattle Displacement Coalition, Puget Sound Sage Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, Seattle Human Services Coalition, and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
Seattle Displacement Coalition
4554 12th NE * Seattle * Washington * 98105 * 206-632-0668 * firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Feb. 17th, 2004
Passage of a resolution committing the City to analysis of the problem of displacement in neighborhoods and adoption of policies that will help us prevent the continued loss of low income housing to demolition, abandonment, conversion, speculative sale, and other forms of gentrification and redevelopment that adversely affect both the social and physical character of our city
The City of Seattle has a long standing commitment to preserve existing affordable housing opportunities in neighborhoods where those opportunities now exist. Such a policy in one form or another has been part of the City’s comprehensive plan for over two decades. However, there currently are no specific mechanisms in place to achieve this long-stated goal. Seattle adopted mechanisms in the late 70’s and 80’s aimed at assisting in the preservation of low cost units including a mandatory code inspection program, demolition control law (called the Housing Preservation Ordinance), and an anti-abandonment law (called the Housing Maintenance Ordinance). But passage of a state law (RCW 82.02.020) in the mid-80’s limiting a city’s right to impose impact fees and subsequent court decisions rendered these laws inoperable.
Every year, the City loses about 2000-4000 low income units to demolition, speculative sale, abandonment, conversion, and increased rents. This loss greatly outweighs the number of subsidized units built each year in Seattle. For every one unit we provide with limited funds, we lose 3-4 times that amount to the forces of redevelopment and gentrification. Without passage of additional mechanisms designed to control this loss – either prevent or ensure replacement of those units at comparable price – we will continue to see a dramatic increase in homelessness, longer waiting lists for vouchers and subsidized housing, and more renters on the verge of becoming homeless paying in excess of 50% of their income on rent.
What must be done:
Given these trends and our city’s longstanding goal to preserve affordable housing opportunities more must be done to prevent this continued hemorrhaging of our existing stock. It is also incumbent on the City at this time to examine and implement additional measures in this area given the general thrust by our Mayor and City departments to increase densities in many of Seattle neighborhoods. Any changes in zoning that increase residential or commercial densities, absent new housing preservation tools, will only accelerate the loss of existing low income opportunities within these neighborhoods. Areas like the University District, Northgate, and South Lake Union have already undergone significant changes in the underlying zoning and still more changes are planned that will greatly accelerate the loss of low income units in these areas. The City also is going the process of revising neighborhood plans and its comprehensive plans at which makes this both a necessary and opportune time to address this need for additional housing preservation tools. We cannot afford to move forward with these zoning changes without first assessing and responding to the continuing and accelerated loss of low income units that will accompany these changes.
Adoption of a resolution creating a task force to review and recommend new housing preservation tools for adoption by the City Council:
For these reasons we are recommending passage of a resolution committing the city to a 6 month process culminating in the identification and adoption of new housing preservation tools that will help us either prevent removal of existing units in neighborhoods where they now exist or ensure one-for-one replacement at comparable price. The resolution also will commit the city to adoption of such measures as a pre-requisite to adoption of new neighborhood plans and effectively accompany any future land use and zoning changes that add residential or commercial density in our neighborhoods.
The resolution to be adopted within the next month if possible will also authorize creation of a 15 member citizens task force to be appointed by the Chair of the City Council’s Housing Committee and consisting of housing and tenant advocates, non-profit housing developers, and representatives of the development industry. The task force will meet at least twice a month for six months and be charged with assessing the growing loss of low income units, quantifying the problem, and then reporting back to the Council with a set of recommendations for consideration and possible adoption by the City Council. The resolution also will commit a reasonable amount of staff time from the Office of Housing to assist the task force in its mission. It also will authorize staff to compile data for the task force, City Council, and the public showing housing losses due to demolition, condominium conversion, speculative sale, abandonment, increased home prices and rents, and provide other indicators of housing loss and/or displacement drawing from existing available data. The task force will assist staff in identifying sources of information that will reveal the depth of the problem in our communities. This date shall also be broken down geographically by neighborhood whenever possible.
The Displacement Coalition, with help from volunteer attorneys, is able to make available a draft resolution for your consideration within the next two weeks. This draft could then be circulated for comment first by the City Attorney, Council staff, and other councilmembers with the hope of adopting in 4-6 weeks.
History of Housing Preservation Laws in Seattle:
The City of Seattle has a long standing commitment to preserve existing affordable housing opportunities in neighborhoods where those opportunities now exist. Such a policy in one form or another has been part of the City’s comprehensive plan for over two decades. However, there currently are no specific mechanisms in place to achieve this long-stated goal. Seattle was aggressive in the preservation arena during the late 70’s and through the mid-80’s. It was an integral and well publicized component of all housing assistance plans adopted annually during that period. The key mechanisms adopted in the late 70’s and 80’s aimed at assisting in the preservation of low cost units were the mandatory code inspection program, demolition control law (called the Housing Preservation Ordinance), and an anti-abandonment law (called the Housing Maintenance Ordinance). But passage of a state law (RCW 82.02.020) in the mid-80’s limiting a city’s right to impose impact fees and subsequent court decisions rendered these laws inoperable.
The anti-abandonment law remains on the books but is not enforced. The law requires developers to keep low income units (that meet a standard of habitability) open and occupied. Federal court decisions struck down a similar Massachusetts law although there are additional provisions of Seattle’s law that could be enforced but simply are ignored by DPD – provisions allowing the City to order repair and even condemn (and obtain) residential properties when they are not maintained.
The demolition control law required developers to replace a portion of the housing they demolished or pay an in lieu of fee. Two court decisions struck down this law and it no longer on the books except for provisions barring developers from tearing down low income housing for parking or empty lots (although DCLU actively assists developers in circumventing these provisions as they did in the case of Paul Allen’s demolition of the Lillian Apartments in the Cascade community). In the wake of the second court decision in 1987 striking down the law, the City committed itself to replacing that law with a legally defensible demolition control tool and passed an 18 month moratorium on demolitions in downtown Seattle and on removal of mobile home parks. But the make-up of the Council changed and a new Mayor was elected. There was no follow-up as a result when the moratorium expired. The City continued enforcing a provision of that law requiring developers tearing down housing to provide relocation assistance to displaced low income tenants but the Mayor and Council unilaterally withdrew enforcement of it while a court case was pending over protests from activists. However, the courts eventually upheld the right of cities to require relocation assistance, and in the mid-90’s we saw passage of a city law (an offshoot of the old demolition control law) requiring developers to provide up to 2000 dollars in relocation to low income tenants who are displaced by demolition and redevelopment.
The mandatory code inspection program per se was not struck down, only the method of raising revenue to pay for the program. It was a system of fees charged to the owner. In a court settlement with property owners, however, the City agreed to set-aside re-consideration of a new mandatory program with differing methods of financing for the program until 2004.
What we have left in the way of city preservation laws includes some minimal provisions requiring 1 for 1 replacement when Harborview expansion requires removal of existing low income housing. And we have a similar requirement when U of W. office expansion requires removal of existing low income housing (this provision was recently adopted and accompanied the Council’s decision to lift the lease list. We also have a condominium conversion law adopted in the late 70’s but that law does not prevent conversions and only requires notice, an offer for sale to existing tenants, and some relocation assistance. (Note that we are seeing once again a significant escalation in the number of units being converted to condominiums)
Our City’s comprehensive plan for years has included general language committing the City to no net loss of low income and affordable housing but right now there are not policies enabling us to achieve such a critical goal. For a number of years now, housing advocates (supported by over two dozen community organizations, church groups, and democratic party organizations), have called for passage of a right of first refusal law and other mechanisms but no progress has been made even though there are several councilmembers (perhaps even a majority now) who have said they support a right of first refusal law if a legal approach to achieving this can be found.
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