Morning Fizz

Campaign Kickoffs and Affordable Housing

Friday Likes and Dislikes

By Josh Feit March 27, 2015

Caffeinated News


1. Incumbent city council members Jean Godden and Tim Burgess, who held their campaign kickoffs last night (at the Magnuson Park Mountaineers Program Center on Sand Point Way and the Elysian downtown respectively) LIKE that mayor Ed Murray showed up to do the introductions. (Murray gave an all-in endorsement of Godden.)

There were about 60 people at Godden's event and about 100 people at Burgess's event—where Burgess raised $11,000. And more for Burgess to LIKE: In addition to the mayor, King County executive Dow Constantine introduced him as well. 

2. Developers DISLIKE that at city council member Mike O'Brien's kickoff (also last night), O'Brien doubled down on his commitment to the linkage fee in his housing affordability stump speech; the linkage fee—counterintuitively developers say—taxes new housing to pay for low-income housing. O'Brien's kickoff was at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center in downtown Fremont where 200 people packed the place and original tunnel detractor Cary Moon, sage of the alternative surface transit option, gave the fundraising pitch. Mayor Murray's legal counsel Lorena González, who's running for that at-large position 9 open seat, was on hand.

Original tunnel detractor Cary Moon, sage of the alternative surface transit option, gave O'Brien's fundraising pitch.

3. On a related note: Developers probably also DISLIKE that the linkage fee may be the sole takeaway from Mayor Murray's announcement on affordable housing yesteday.

Mayor Murray pulled rank on his housing affordability task force, where developers had been trying to help frame the debate, and busted out a big number—20,000—as the amount of new affordable units the task force needs to call for in the next 10 years. The number would triple the amount the city currently produces per year, about 700.

The gargantuan increase in production dictates that the the city needs to move beyond nudging developers with optional incentive programs (that haven't produced much) and simply raise the money to build. The only new revenue idea on the table is O'Brien's $22-per-square-foot linkage fee—a tax on developers.

The housing levy, a tax on all property owners (about $60 a year on the average home) including single-family-zone property owners who have just as much to do with the pricey market as new developers (who can't build much new housing in single-family zones), generates about $20 million a year.

To hit the 30,000 market rate number, though, developers will have to build build build.

City office of housing communications director Todd Burley told me the 20,000 goal "reflects [the] reality that there is a tremendous need for affordable housing in our community."

However, I'm still trying to figure out why 20,000 is the magic number. City estimates have been all over the map, but skew higher than 20,000.

This city document put the need in downtown alone at 20,100.

 This one puts the overall need closer to 30,000.


And finally, this chart, distributed to committee members by the office of housing at the outset of the affordability task force meetings, put the need between 60,000 and 90,000.

There's another big number in Murray's proposal, though: 30,000 new market rate housing units. The problem is, to hit that number, developers will have to build build build. And with a linkage fee taxing them (not to mention NIBMY-inspired restrictions on new housing in single-family zones), council may have to reconsider its knee-jerk populist impulses to disincentivize new market production.

4. And finally, something I LIKE.

At yesterday's Sound Transit board meeting, the board voted to extend the deadline to raise money for the pedestrian bridge at the Northgate station. The bridge would connect the Licton Springs neighborhood, separated off to the west by I-5, to the station. The bridge has been a rallying cry northeast Seattle from neighbors calling themselves the 92 percenters. The bridge, projected to serve the 92 percent of daily riders who will walk or bike to the stop. The bridge was originally proposed by neighbors as ped-friendly alternative to ST's original plan for a parking garage that would've served just 8 percent of daily riders.

It's a $25 million project, but only has about $10 million in current funding.

Mayor Murray's $900 million transportation levy proposal has $15 million earmarked for the bridge, but with the ST's deadline initially slated for July.


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