City Announces Housing Affordability Committee, With Capitol Hill On The Agenda

In light of rapidly increasing rents and a surge of housing construction projects throughout the city, Mayor Ed Murray and members of City Council have announced the development of an agenda to address affordability and availability of housing in Seattle by forming the “Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee.”

The project aims at targeting neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill where housing costs continue to rise, resulting in shifting demography.

The Advisory Committee’s purpose is to find solutions for more housing available to people with all income levels. This can be done through community engagement and reform. It will begin by holding three public meetings during November and December. On Nov. 20, one of the three meetings will be held at Garfield Community Center.

“Seattle’s future growth can and will bring unprecedented challenges for our city, but we can choose our path forward,” Murray said in a press release. “This can be a moment to engage in battles over density and fear of change, or this can be a moment full of opportunity to create walkable, livable, and affordable mixed-income neighborhoods for everyone.”

Goals and values

The top goal and value of the committee is to expand housing opportunities to all income and racial groups. Councilmember Sally J. Clark who chairs the City Council Housing Human Services and Economic Resiliency Committee said hosting a meeting to address the needs of homeless people was an option. Capitol HillThe Central District neighborhood is crucial as it undergoes rapid change.

“Capitol Hill has changed — it’s more expensive, and old housing stock is being replaced with newer, more expensive dwelling units,” Clark said. “The Committee wants to hear experiences, perspectives, and answers from the community.”

Clark stated that the world has changed dramatically since 1990 when Clark was able afford to live in a small apartment on Capitol Hill and had a low-income job.

“You’ve got a lot of folks who are wondering if you can still do that in your 20s or 30s in Seattle,” Clark said. “There are variations of that story all through Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the especially the Central Area, where you hear a lot about gentrification and displacement.  We want a place where people can choose to build their lives no matter who they are.”

Moving forward

Clark believes that efforts made through organizations like Capitol Hill Housing have made strides in ensuring that units that are permanently affordable to those with different income levels on Capitol Hill, but that the committee wants to work towards finding ways to match the pace of development with demand. According to Clark, these ideas will be realized as soon as possible in spring 2015.

“We will see if this advisory committee is able to come up with some creative suggestions that we haven’t explored to build more affordable units,” Clark said. “In the coming months we want these public meetings to help us see what people think we should focus on, and pool together a plan to start test driving ideas in March and April.”

Capitol Hill Community Council member Zachary Pullin was recently appointed to the Seattle Housing Authority Board of Commissioners by Mayor Murray. Pullin echoed that sentiment with rents averaging about $1,550 to $1,700 for a studio/one-bedroom on the Hill, it’s becoming evident that a plan is needed to increase the number of units.

“Over the next 20 years, Seattle will need to add close to 70,000 new units of housing, and will need to add 28,000 affordable units–Capitol Hill has already added around 2,200 units with about 2,500 forthcoming,” Pullin said.

“That’s great news, but there must be focus on building affordable housing because the cost of housing disproportionately affects many marginalized communities: seniors, especially LGBTQ and disabled seniors, people with disabilities, people of color, immigrant and refugee populations, students, and women.”

Pullin is hopeful that these communities, as well as housing reform around the city will receive a lot of attention from the committee.

“The reality is that as housing becomes less and less affordable, not only are we losing the diversity that our city thrives on, but we are requiring people to live while looking back over their shoulder at an immensely devastating reality of homelessness and poor quality of life, instead of looking forward to a brighter future for themselves and their families,” Pullin said.

Capitol Hill has certainly changed — with its landscape of luxury apartments becoming increasingly inaccessible, the committee is hoping to begin addressing the issues with community-generated suggestions. From 6 to 8 pm, the committee will meet in Garfield Community Center 2323 E Cherry St.