Heated debate at final hearing for Seattle’s upzoning measure

Feb 22, 2019, 9:57 AM
Seattle upzoning MHA city council...
A public commenter at the final public hearing on the MHA. (Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

Seattle City Council has long dealt with its controversial Mandatory Housing Affordability proposal, designed to increase the amount of affordable housing the city has available. On Thursday, hundreds of people packed the council chambers to testify for the last time before the upzoning measure goes to a full vote.

RELATED: Seattle City Council opens up discussion on upzoning measure

The upzoning measure would enact requirements for building affordable housing and taller residence buildings in select neighborhoods throughout Seattle. The goal: To provide at least 6,000 new rent and income-restricted homes for low-income residents.

Additionally, it would levy substantial fines on developers who don’t dedicate between 5 and 11 percent of projects to low-income housing. Concerns have been expressed, though, that developers would simply choose to absorb the fines and not fulfill the affordable housing requirement.

“To all the firefighters, nurses, and cops who are priced out of Seattle, your income will never be enough for the MHA developers who will opt out of having affordable units on-site,” said commenter Ruby Holland.

More than that, some worried that the MHA doesn’t account for displacement after single-family zones are opened up to multi-story apartment buildings.

“Throughout Seattle, there are families that struggle to purchase the American Dream,” said Holland. “Now these same families are threatened with displacement because of MHA.”

“If you think we’re going to turn over our properties to some rich, fat cat who wants to own all of Seattle, so that some high-income workers that have never struggled a day in their lives can live in our place, wrong answer; not happening,” she added.

RELATED: Seattle mayor, council push forward affordable housing plan

“The MHA is fundamentally flawed — I don’t believe MHA has done anything about displacement so far,” another commenter added.

Others expressing support for the measure noted the city’s urgent need for more available housing.

“Working families are struggling — more people need housing, and this is the chance to mitigate that need,” one proponent noted.

“If we don’t build more housing and more types of housing, this crisis is only going to get worse,” said another.

The MHA has already been enacted in the University District, South Lake Union, downtown, Lower Queen Anne, the International District, and the Central Area. The eventual hope with this measure is to get it up and running across the entire city of Seattle.

It’s set to go before city council for a full vote sometime in mid-March.

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Heated debate at final hearing for Seattle’s upzoning measure