Re: “Seattle’s long-standing ‘urban village’ strategy for growth needs reworking, new report says” [July 27, Local News]:
Seattle’s urban-village strategy has brought density — but also soaring home prices, rents and displacement of low-income residents. The city’s analysis overlooks a key piece in this flawed experiment — its housing “grand bargain,” profiled in the previous day’s Times.
Described as a “strategy for housing affordability through new development,” the deal traded increased height and density in urban villages for a mandatory requirement to include affordable housing in development hubs throughout the city — or alternately pay a fee. Instead, the alternative is the rule. Mandatory Housing Affordability numbers cited for last year show 98% of projects opted for fees, and the remaining 2% contributed just 21 new low-income units.
The fees can be sizable, but distributing funds biannually to many small developers, though well-intended, is not making a dent in delivering the thousands of affordable units urgently needed across the city. Meanwhile, the fee option allows market-rate development to dominate desirable urban villages, driving up their land prices and virtually eliminating them for affordable housing.
Before rezoning other parts of the city, it’s time to revisit the lessons learned from the urban-village strategy and grand bargain, and make a better deal for affordable housing to keep pace across the city.
Megan Kruse, Seattle