Morning Fizz

Chopp May Block Affordable Housing Bill

Murray housing bill in trouble in Olympia.

By Josh Feit February 24, 2016

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1. Republicans in the GOP-dominated state senate aren’t the only ones Seattle progressives have to worry about: There’s also state representative Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford), the speaker of the Democratic house.

A key piece of mayor Ed Murray’s housing and affordability agenda, a bill to set aside 25 percent of a rental property as affordable housing (available to those making 60 percent of median income or $43,000 for a family of two) is in trouble in the house because Chopp thinks it’s a give away to landlords. The bill gives property owners a local (not state) property tax exemption for setting aside the affordable units. Murray says the bill will create 3,000 affordable units. Murray has a goal of creating 20,000 affordable housing units in the next decade.

The bipartisan bill passed the senate 36-13 with Seattle’s liberal delegation—senators David Frockt (D-46, North Settle), Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne), Bob Hasegawa (D-11, Beacon Hill), Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle), Sharon Nelson (D-34, West Seattle), and Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill)—all lining up behind it; the handful of no votes came from a batch of hard line Republicans like senators Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane) and Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale).

Fifteeen Democratic state senators, including even populist senator Marilyn Chase (D-32, Edmonds), whose left-wing-around-the-bend-right-wing views are the best senate analog to Chopp’s own cranky, old-school leftism, signed a letter to Chopp on Monday, urging him to pass the bill. The legislation was cosponsored by Seattle’s own Frockt.

 The letter says:

There is no doubt that the homeless crisis we face in this state has many causes, but lack of affordable housing is the most obvious. It needs to be addressed through all mechanisms including direct investment with public dollars, but also incentivized tools like this to encourage the preservation of existing affordable units. Very simply, this legislation would provide another tool for counties and cities to utilize, at their discretion, in working to increase affordable housing stock.

The bill also has broad support from progressives (and Chopp allies) in Seattle such as Puget Sound Sage, the low-income Housing Development Consortium, OneAmerica, the Service Employees International Union 775, the Plymouth Housing Group, and Capitol Hill Housing.

But gasp, and this hints at the perplexing disconnect for baby boom generation liberals like Chopp: the unprecedented coalition also includes the Downtown Seattle Association and Vulcan!

One Chopp ally, Seattle Displacement Coalition leader John Fox, also a Baby Boom liberal, is against the bill because he thinks it will actually create an incentive for developers to build more expensive units to offset the cost of the affordable ones—an unintended consequence that will drive prices up citywide even further. Of course, the irony of this argument is hard to miss: This was the very same point Fox’s archrivals, developers, made last year when they opposed Fox’s push for a blanket linkage fee on development. Developers argued that subsidizing units that way would trickle down in higher rents, a point lefty’s like Fox seemed to dismiss.

I have a message in to Chopp and to the Democratic house sponsor, Noel Frame (D-36, Ballard).

UPDATE: Freshman Frame tells me she's "doing everything I can to move this bill."

2. Whoa.

Reporter Erica C. Barnett busts NextDoor, the social media platform the city has used for community outreach on police issues, for trying to keep public policy discussions secret.

Mayor Ed Murray tells Barnett, who was kicked off NextDoor for outing the provincialist diatribes on the NextDoor site, that the city will now reevaluate using NextDoor for getting community feedback on public policy.

Meanwhile, NextDoor, embarrassed by their tone deaf sense of social media and public policy discussions, has reinstated Barnett's account.

Barnett quotes Murray:

“My first concerns, before your post went up, had already come up as a result of the Magnolia and Ballard lists, where some individuals were working themselves into a paranoid hysteria… and becoming more scared and more isolated,” Murray says. “I was already wondering, What the hell’s going on here? Why, suddenly, when we’re having crime stats going down in the city overall, are we seeing a huge uptick in people absolutely freaked out about crime? There are some indications that the complaints about crime may be more related to social media sites than the neighborhoods that actually have crime.”

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