Did Seattle’s upzoning measure not go far enough?

May 7, 2019, 12:43 PM
Seattle City Council upzoning...
(Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

The passing of Seattle’s citywide upzoning measure, dubbed Mandatory Housing Affordability, proved controversial for many. Opponents argued that single-family homes would be jeopardized. Supporters countered, saying that it would add much-needed housing for a city in crisis.

But did it do enough to accomplish that end? One analyst argues that it didn’t.

RELATED: Heated debate at last hearing for Seattle’s upzoning measure
RELATED: Seattle council votes to approve MHA upzoning bill

“We were remarkably disappointed with the direction the city council went,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “It didn’t go far enough.”

Gardner notes that roughly 70 percent of Seattle was owned, single-family housing prior to MHA’s passing, an approach that “made sense in the 50s, 60s, and maybe even the 1970s.” In today’s housing climate, though, he argues that it’s an outdated approach.

While MHA looks to reverse that trend in its own way, it’s also limited.

“The upzoning within the single family-zoned areas only applies to about 5 percent of that area,” he points out. “What happens … is you see a lot of pushback by neighborhoods, say[ing] ‘we want to embrace affordable housing, just don’t build it next to me.’ It’s a great shame.”

The lack of affordable housing isn’t simply about putting roofs over heads, either — it’s also a question of commerce.

“There are two components when a company is thinking about expanding into any city,” says Gardner. “First, is there an educated workforce that (they) can hire? Secondly, the big question for employers is how much (they) have to pay people, [and] the biggest component of salaries? Cost of living.”

That has a city like Seattle in need of not just more low income housing, but also what Gardner dubs “workforce housing.” That means an abundance of homes that middle class workers can reasonably expect to afford.

“We need to address that — if we don’t all of the sudden some of the tarnish is going to appear on the jewel that is Seattle.”

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
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Did Seattle’s upzoning measure not go far enough?