Morning Fizz

Unlikely Allies: Sawant and Developers?

Caffeinated news featuring a letter to the housing affordability task force

By Josh Feit March 5, 2015

Caffeinated News

Unlikely Allies 

1. A group of developers, land-use attorneys, and architects are sending a letter to the city council and mayor Ed Murray's housing affordability task force today protesting the so-called linkage fee—a charge on all new development that would help pay for affordable housing.

This isn't news. Developers have been up in arms about the linkage fee for months ever since the city council passed a resolution supporting the linkage fee late last year. Developers say the fee, as high as $22 a square foot, will discourage development. They also say it's illegal because state law prohibits taxes on development unless A) it's voluntary like an incentive fee or B) it's a clear charge for mitigating a direct impact. Linkage fee supporters say the charge would mitigate the increased cost of housing created by new development.

The letter comes with a long list of alternative ways to fund and create affordable housing such as: renewing and expanding Seattle's voter-approved housing levy (a property tax on everybody that generates about $21 million a year for affordable housing that costs a median-value Seattle home about $60 per year), dedicating a portion of the general fund to affordable housing, expanding programs for in-fill density like attached dwelling units and microhousing (the council put restrictions on microhousing in 2014), buying and preserving existing affordable housing, and—here's the newsy partusing publicly owned land for affordable housing.

A draft of the letter obtained by PubliCola states: "Utilization of publicly owned land: The City of Seattle and other public agencies own significant parcels of vacant or underutilized land capable of supporting infill housing. There are a variety of models and partnership arrangements that the city could utilize to develop affordable housing on publicly owned land."

This is news because the exact same idea is also being promoted by the developers' biggest nemesis at city hall, socialist Kshama Sawant.

Sawant told KING 5 last month that she's proposing using public bonds to build affordable housing on thousands of square feet of surplus public land with the rents paying off the bonds.



Regular Rivals 

2. Speaking of Sawant. She held a forum earlier this week in Capitol Hill about anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.

Mayor Ed Murray made a surprise visit and reportedly stood up and gave a five-minute "masterful" speech according to a begrudging council staffer who explained, "his issue, his neighborhood." Murray is gay and is widely considered the state's gay rights hero for passing the 2012 marriage equality law (and before that, 2006's antidiscrimination legislation.)

However, the same staffer nudged me: "But watch the video and note response to Sawant's closing comments. Spoiler alert: She brought the house down." (PubliCola will post the video when it's up.)

One of Sawant's challengers is former marriage equality leader, Equal Rights Washington director Rod Hearne. Hearne has raised an impressive amount of money. Women's rights activist Morgan Beach has also declared against Sawant.

And the word is Urban League president Pamela Banks is getting ready to make an announcement that she's jumping into the race.

3. I posted this late in the day, but for more Murray vs. Sawant action, check out yesterday's One Question.


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