Time for a Plan to Increase Housing Supply

It seems these days that almost everyone has a petition; whether it is the minimum wage, issues related to health insurance, or even one urging that USA Team goalie Tim Howard be appointed Secretary of Defense, you almost can’t go a day on the internet without being asked to sign on to something. What about more housing in Seattle?

Usually, petitions are a way of trying to persuade elected officials to do something. Petitions can be an organizing tool born out of frustration with a political process that is stuck, or moving in the wrong direction. A petition is a way of saying, “you’re misreading the situation. We need something different, and lots of people agree”

When it comes to housing in Seattle there is no question that people feel like prices are going up. Stories about the length of time it takes to find an apartment are everywhere. Often, it isn’t even so much the price as the feeling that prices will go up, and lead to price outs.

But the Seattle City Council seems to be stuck, or maybe even going in reverse on housing. We know that they’ve discussed the issue a lot over the years. All that discussion hasn’t lead to a comprehensive plan to expand the supply of housing of all kinds throughout the city. Instead, as you’ve seen cataloged here, the Council has actually taken housing capacity off the table. Councilmember Tim Burgess said 250 new single-family homes were “not meaningful.”

The Council was poised to enact legislation written by Department of Planning and Development staff that would have essentially ended the innovation of microhousing in Seattle, a housing product that I get calls about from around the Country asking, “how did Seattle make micros work, because we need them here.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, the DPD produced legislation at the request of Councilmember Clark that would essentially downzone the low-rise zones in our city, removing thousands of potential units from the supply chain at a time when demand for housing in those areas—Capitol Hill, for example—is exploding.

Also, incentive zoning is being discussed yet again. We’ve pointed out again, and again, that incentive zoning is a tax on something we want more of, housing, and increasing that tax will limit supply, and increase the costs of housing, costs that end up being paid by renters.

So when the Council hears people complain about housing price, they say they want to do something, but their actions simply make the problem worse, reducing supply, increasing prices and the complaints about price. Rinse and repeat.

Many of us are frustrated and we’ve decided to take our message directly to the community. The video trailer posted above is for a longer video that will be promoted with banner ads and pre-roll ads (those things that pop up before your funny cat video will play). Our call to action is for people to sign a petition if they agree that we need a housing plan to expand housing supply. We’ll go live with the full video tomorrow, but you can watch it on the petition page. We’re looking forward to more discussion and debate. But we’re really hoping the Council will stop taking actions that make things for housing worse, develop a plan in collaboration with everyone involved, then implement that plan and hold itself accountable for progress.

 

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