Especially since those bearing brunt of recently approved MHA upzones are communities of color
Reprinted from our column in Pacific Publishing News – Carolee Colter and John V. Fox
Before voting in favor of the citywide upzones last month accompanying Seattle’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) plan, Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda both said upzoning predominantly single-family neighborhoods was necessary to remove a hundred-year-old legacy of racist zoning practices.
Pointing fingers and by inference accusing nearly 310,000 Seattle residents who live in single-family homes of racist intent when they speak up for their communities–and doing so without evidence—may be as egregious and polarizing a statement as any made by a locally elected official in our decades of neighborhood and housing activism. Developers and their self-appointed “urbanist” surrogates seemingly will go to any length to marginalize those standing in the way of their pro-density agenda. But it’s especially disappointing that two city councilmembers would play that game.
There is a tragic irony here in that 28 percent of the city’s renter population lives in a single-family home. About 63 percent of households of color in Seattle rely on rental housing compared to about 47 percent of white households. Moreover, a disproportionate number of larger renter families of color are by city standards severely cost burdened, including extended immigrant families. It’s this group that especially relies on these larger single-family rentals to maintain a foothold in their communities.
As we reported in a story three weeks ago, 60 percent of single family areas city-wide that were recently upzoned under the new MHA plan are located in the Central District and Southend, especially along corridors such as Rainier Avenue, Martin Luther King Way and 23rd Avenue. These are precisely the areas with the city’s highest concentrations of low-income and minority renters, particularly large families renting single-family homes. It’s these areas that will face perhaps the most drastic change resulting from MHA upzones setting in motion redevelopment and demolition driving many minority households out for smaller luxury townhomes and apartments.
The MHA upzones also will set off more buying and selling and refinancing of properties. If an affordable rental property isn’t immediately demolished, speculators pass on refinancing costs to the renters in the form of $200, $300, or even larger rent increases. Over time upzoning also will lead to increased land values and higher taxes, which inevitably get passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents. Once again, it will be low-income renters, especially families of color, who will be most directly impacted,and gentrified out of their neighborhoods. Continue reading