Neighborhood Affordability Plans
In addition to citywide affordability policies, we need neighborhood affordability plans to identify ways that each community will contribute to citywide affordability goals. These plans will include many different elements, but will need to primarily address zoning and financial issues. We suggest the following principles should be referenced when drawing up these plans.
Principles to consider
1. Neighborhood affordability means welcoming people into our neighborhoods
Strong neighborhoods are neighborhoods that are welcoming to lots of different people.
2. Welcoming more people means more housing
While more housing alone may not be enough to solve our affordability problems, it's hard to imagine solving these problems without it. In demand cities such as San Francisco which have drastically curtailed new housing construction have seen dramatic spikes in housing prices and resulting displacement of low and even middle income households. With the US population expected to continue to grow over coming decades, lots more households are going to need a place to live. Seattle should not only accept many of them, we should welcome them.
3. Neighborhood character is how we treat each other
While some would suggested that new buildings damage a neighborhoods character, we reject the idea that the defining aspect of a neighborhoods character is a bunch of "stuff". We believe that a neighborhoods character is defined by how residents treat each other, including new or prospective residents. The Welcoming Communities Project will focus on improving how we relate to each other within our communities. Our neighborhood affordability plans will impact who is able to live here.
4. We need many different kinds of housing
We need many different kinds of housing because the housing market consists of a spectrum of housing choices, with units being added, removed, and shifted along the spectrum by construction, demolition, and renovation. As such, what happens at one part of the spectrum tends to ripple across the rest of it. Even new luxury housing can benefit affordability if it is built in such a way as to attract demand that otherwise would have been expressed as demolition of, or rent increases to less expensive units.
We also need many different kinds of housing because there are many different kinds of households. Households vary in size, composition, cultural values, and income. A one size fits all model simply can't hope to accommodate these many different needs. Related to this, we must take pains to avoid imposing our own particular values on how people "should" and "shouldn't" live.
5. Housing should be near transit
As we already explored in the policy background section, significant areas of the city are located within a quarter mile of frequent transit, yet are zoned to exclude multifamily housing. This represents a great opportunity to build housing in transit rich areas. Not only will new residents benefit from being to access transit but also existing residents will benefit from the virtuous cycle of more riders leading to more frequent transit service which in turn attracts more riders.
6. We need solutions for the short, medium, and long term
It's not enough to look at solutions that will take 10 years to implement. In many cases the households who need housing will have found it by other means or quit the city by then. On the flip side, we must not merely kick the can down the road with short term "solutions" that lead to the same problems again and again.
A Pilot Neighborhood Affordability Plan
Housing Now is looking to partners to conduct a pilot project to develop the first of these affordability plans. We'll update this space as this progresses. If you or your organization are interested in getting involved, please contact us ASAP!