Here's the third post today about the council's big vote yesterday to move forward with a "linkage fee"—a square-footage charge on development to pay for affordable housing. 

It's not that we're obsessed with picayune city policy (though, there is that).

It's more that we think there's a macro policy issue at play in this micro policy debate. 

I've got a piece in the magazine that—through interviews with the proposal's sponsor, progressive City Council member Mike O'Brien, interviews with social justice organizations like Puget Sound Sage that support the idea, and interviews with opponents from the developer side of the debate—explores the larger issue.

 

The story leads off:

“WE ALL KNOW MORE AND MORE people who are struggling to live in this city,” says Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien, who has morphed this year from an eco-urbanist who once passed a plastic bag ban to now stirring up class war at council hearings. From his position as chair of the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability committee, O’Brien is pushing fees on developers to deal with the city’s housing crisis.

“Here’s a little bit of the evolution of Mike O’Brien,” Mike O’Brien says. “I really want that dense, transit, urban vision. That’s in my roots. But…if all that new construction is only affordable for people working on higher floors at Amazon, the people in that neighborhood that made it unique and interesting can no longer afford to stay there.”

Whether it’s just politically easy to tax developers or whether it’s truly sound policy is unclear. But it does raise a fundamental question: How do we pay for a city? Or, more accurately, who pays for a city? 

 

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