Establishment candidate for mayor has clearest path to November’s election

Durkan and Obama

Jenny Durkan is running for mayor as Obama’s U.S. Attorney.

Jenny Durkan starts as the favorite in the August 1 primary but five others are competitive

By George Howland Jr

The race for mayor of Seattle is not wide open. There is one candidate, barring some unforeseen circumstance, who will get through the August primary: Jenny Durkan, 59. Five others are fighting to be the other candidate to move onto November’s general election.

The reason I express such confidence in Durkan’s electoral strength is two-fold: first, she is the establishment candidate; second, she has the combination of experience and charisma that Seattle voters generally award.

The Seattle establishment is the ruling coalition that has dominated City Hall for decades: The Chamber, the Downtown Seattle Association, big Democrats, big labor and big developers. Seattle’s establishment doesn’t always put forward the most electable candidates, but this year, they’ve got a very strong one. The imprimatur of the establishment has already reaped benefits for Durkan: she reportedly raked in $100,000 in the first week of fundraising. Money doesn’t always win elections, but it seldom hurts a candidate.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Election 2017, George Howland articles, Homelessness, LGBTQ, Neighborhoods, Politics, Upzoning

Why is affordable housing so expensive to build?


Plymouth Housing Group’s Betsy Hunter says affordable housing is not gold-plated. (Plymouth Housing Group)

Complicated finance methods and commitments to labor and greens all contribute to costs

by George Howland Jr

The current debate over the cost of developing affordable housing has come to Washington state. While the issue is not new, the political and social conditions have changed since the subject was last debated. Will the outcome be different this time around?

Last month, the Republican-controlled Washington state Senate passed a two-year, $43 billion budget proposal including $500,000 for a performance audit comparing the development costs of market-rate housing and publicly subsidized affordable housing.

Washington state Senate’s performance-audit proposal was put into the budget by State Sen. John Braun (R.-Centralia), chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. The Democratically-controlled state House of Representatives also passed its own budget last month and didn’t include a performance audit. The two chambers of the state legislature are now engaged in negotiations on a final budget deal.

In past years, concern about the cost of affordable-housing development has been a Republican issue. This year, however, west-coast Democratic politicians have also taken up the issue.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, George Howland articles, Homelessness, Neighborhoods

Council candidate wants Seattle to strike a new path on housing

Secrest 2

Sheley Secrest shows independence on housing issues.

Sheley Secrest sharply critiques the mayor’s HALA plans and works to build a community land trust

On April 20, Sheley Secrest declared her opposition to Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). At Seattle’s 46th Legislative District candidate forum, Secrest stepped out from the 10-person pack of candidates running for an open citywide seat on the Seattle City Council by showing her independence on housing issues. Her stance grows out of her experience as an African American, a community activist and a renter living in the Rainier Valley. In addition, through her work with the Seattle King County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Secrest is helping to create affordable housing in the Central Area through a community land trust, an innovative development tool based on non-profit ownership of land.

Secrest, 42, was born and raised in Seattle, is the mother of three children and has a private legal practice in criminal defense. She is running for Seattle City Council, Position Eight, which is currently held by Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, who has chosen not to seek re-election.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Election 2017, George Howland articles, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Politics, Upzoning

Fear not facts fuel misconceptions and scapegoating of the homeless

Nextdoor sometimes becomes a forum for some to vent against “those people” sleeping in “our parks” and falsely conflating homelessness with criminality

– by Carolee Colter and John V. Fox, reprinted from our long-running column in Pacific Publishing Newspapers

“Nextdoor” is an on-line bulletin board where residents may post anything about their neighborhood: lost cats and dogs, things they’re giving away or selling, upcoming events–or perhaps a post about criminal activity or something else amiss in their community.

But it can also be a forum for some to air their prejudices against the homeless, to vent about “those people” sleeping in “their” parks, scaring their children, and who they see as singularly responsible for all the trash and crime in their neighborhood.

This happened recently on a Nextdoor network in the Ravenna community when a resident discovered 7 tents in Ravenna Park. A string of hundreds of comments grew quickly, largely reflecting common stereotypes about the homeless with words like “feral,” “addicts” and “criminals”.

The few offering insights or compassion, were reprimanded. Helping them would be “a major layer of the problem”. “Progressives at City Hall are to too lenient” “We’ve become ‘Freattle’ a magnet”, offering too many services instead of jail, or “a bus ticket back to where they came from”

Fear not facts inform these assumptions. Recently, the city commissioned a survey of area homeless including extended one-on-one interviews of 1000 homeless people. Dozens more were assembled in focus groups for lengthier discussions. While full results can be found at http://coshumaninterests.wpengine.netdna… here’s what leapt out at us at odds with the mythology:

  • 37% of the homeless are women, 58% of whom report being victims of domestic violence.
  • 18% reported that they first became homeless below the age of 18
  • 41% actually worked part-time or seasonally
  • 68% have never spent time in jail, and 88% haven’t been in jail in the previous year
  • 70% were living in Seattle or King County before they became homeless. Only 13% came from out of state, a rate of in-migration nearly identical to the ‘housed’ population (so much for the magnet theory).
  • 90% would gladly accept ‘safe’ and ‘affordable’ housing if they were offered it.

Another popular misconception: those camping outside are a hard core “criminal element”. The survey found “little difference in the demographic characteristics of sheltered and unsheltered individuals.” Regarding any fear of the homeless overrunning our parks, the King County’s 2016 homeless count found only 24 of 3000 unsheltered camped overnight in public parks. Most were hidden away in campers, cars, under bridges and along freeways.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, Density, Homelessness, Neighborhoods, Politics, Uncategorized

Is the mayor’s plan for ending homelessness wrong?

Ed Murray’s plans to invest heavily in rapid rehousing are troubling. (Wikipedia)

Ed Murray wants to spend tens of millions more on rapid rehousing, but a new study shows it doesn’t work 60 percent of the time

What is the highlight of Mayor Ed Murray’s latest plan to solve Seattle’s homelessness crisis? Put a lot of money into rapid rehousing.

Yet, in October 2016, the first independent, long-term study of rapid rehousing—basically another name for short-term housing vouchers— found that the strategy has serious flaws. Vanderbilt University Professor Mary Beth Shinn, the study’s co-author, says “In a [housing] market like Seattle’s, I don’t think [rapid rehousing] will help lead to long-term stability for [homeless] families.”

Shinn’s findings contradict an earlier report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and call into question Murray’s plans.

Murray’s human-services officials argue, however, that Seattle is getting better results than found in Shinn’s study. In addition, they stress that rapid rehousing in only one program in Seattle’s continuum of care.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Election 2017, George Howland articles, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, Politics

Even Raging Grannies Can’t Convince Council to Do the Right Thing in Downtown/South Lake Union Rezone

Guest Column by Susanna Lin

It’s a disappointing day for Seattle when the City Council can’t raise the affordable housing requirements for Downtown/South Lake Union developers from 2 to 5%, when other cities with “Mandatory Incentive Zoning” programs set aside 10-30% of their units as affordable. In a time when a record number of people are sleeping on the streets, most of our City Council voted on Monday to give corporate developers, the wealthiest of all city developers and rich enough to build in these areas, a virtual free pass on affordable housing requirements.

The recently enacted incentive zoning program in Seattle is called Mandatory Housing Affordability or MHA.  It gives developers an “incentive” (more potential profit) in the form of extra developable height in exchange for a mandatory requirement that developers set aside some of their units as affordable or pay an in-lieu fee towards affordable housing.  This mandatory requirement only is applied in areas affected by the rezone.  (Lots of technical speak, I know, but keep reading!)Screenshot 2017-04-11 at 10.58.13 PM

During the Full City Council meeting on Monday regarding the Downtown/South Lake Union rezone, Councilmember Lisa Herbold introduced an amendment to try and increase the minimum affordable housing requirement from 2 to 5% of units that developers would have to set aside as affordable.  Still far below other cities with similar programs.  Her amendment would have applied the same formula to the Downtown/SLU rezone as is being applied to the rest of the city.  But only Councilmember Kshama Sawant supported Herbold’s amendment. Once this was disposed of, the full Council then voted 9-0 to approve the upzones.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Neighborhoods, Politics, Uncategorized

Councilmember Rob Johnson is misleading the public about upzones


Johnson’s new law will intensify demolitions and displacement. (Alex Pedersen)

Northeast Seattle’s city councilmember twists truth to support irresponsible policies

by Alex Pedersen

Do you recognize this bulldozer? It’s hard to tell because there are so many rumbling in Northeast Seattle these days. (It’s the one on NE 50th and Brooklyn).

Seattle leaders should prevent demolitions and displacement. Instead, our local government officials — led by Councilmember Rob Johnson — have been spending an enormous amount of time and taxpayer resources to quickly implement polices that will benefit their for-profit developer campaign donors and intensify demolitions and displacement.

Councilmember Johnson’s recent Op Ed entitled “U District leads the way in citywide rezone effort” was misleading and irresponsible. Johnson, who was elected to represent Northeast Seattle in “District 4”, was not only celebrating his efforts to enact a law massively upzoning the U District but also giving notice to the rest of the city that he plans to upzone their neighborhoods, too. Disturbingly, many of his statements lauding the upzones were false.

In this troubling era of government officials spreading alternative facts to push their agendas and confuse communities, Johnson’s twisting of the truth must be corrected.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Protest, University District, Upzoning