Durkan and McGinn: Which One Will Pause MIZ?

It’s still early in the campaign for Mayor of Seattle — very early. We’re likely to see new candidates, some current candidates leave the race, and others, maybe, switching to a run for City Council. But there does seem to be a trend on housing that is concerning. First, lots of observers are likely to see the race come down to one between former Mayor Mike McGinn and insider Jenny Durkan. He’s got name familiarity and she’s got lots of credibility with those who want, “an adult in the room,” especially with the wild tilt to the left the city is currently experiencing. But on the central issue of which candidate will listen to serious concerns about Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIZ) — the scheme to tax new housing to generate money for non-profit housing developers — McGinn seems likeliest to hit the pause button, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.
This is from the Seattle Weekly in a story with the disturbing headline, “Murray 2.0? Jenny Durkan Poised to Build on Mayor’s Legacy, Not Reverse It:”

Durkan also praised Murray’s housing policy: “Because of Mayor Murray’s leadership on HALA, our building boom will result in more affordable housing and millions of dollars for exploring affordable housing opportunities. As your mayor, I will promise you that we will use that money wisely and that we will be accountable for it.”

And McGinn in the Seattle Times.

That’s the line of attack McGinn, 57, hinted at in an interview. “We don’t need somebody who checks in with the dealmakers before they can run,” he said. “We have an affordability problem in part because the dealmakers are running this town.”
And the story in the Times also says,

Durkan has praised Murray’s housing-affordability plan, which includes upzones paired with requirements for developers to help create low-income housing.

But McGinn has suggested he would start over, saying more neighborhood engagement is warranted.

These are top tier candidates. And we really need to watch them closely. Will Jenny Durkan meet with those of us who represent the small business owners who build and manage the vast majority of housing in the city? Will she do the math with us on MIZ? Will she support rent control and other unhelpful and tenant harming rules for people who manage rental properties? Will Durkan be persuaded that downtown developers represent the entire industry?

We’ll see.

And what if McGinn stops MIZ to play to angry neighbors? Does it really matter? Anything that stops that train is something we need to consider. While we don’t agree on much, neighbors and most developers do know that they were not included in the deal that led to MIZ have not been listened to since. Unfortunately, the displeasure in the neighborhoods about MIZ has been directed at builders of housing rather at the tiny group of insiders that created it in the first place.

In the end, Durkan and McGinn will evolve their positions on MIZ and other aspects of housing policy. The single most important question is will either of them, or any of the other candidates, recognize that the best thing we can do for sustainability and affordability is to build lots more housing of all types, in all parts of the city, for all levels of income. Adding more costs and hassles to producing housing will only make it more and more expensive.

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