Eight candidates running for Seattle City Council seats, including current Councilmember Kshama Sawant, announced an alternative housing plan at a City Hall news conference Wednesday morning.
Candidates for seven of the Seattle City Council’s nine seats banded together Wednesday, less than a week before the Aug. 4 primary election, to back an alternative to Mayor Ed Murray’s housing plan.
The group included only one current council member, Kshama Sawant, who’s running in District 3. The other candidates who announced the alternative plan at a City Hall news conference were Lisa Herbold in District 1, Tammy Morales and Josh Farris in District 2, Michael Maddux in District 4 and Mercedes Elizalde in District 5, along with Jon Grant and Bill Bradburd, who are running for the Position 8 and Position 9 citywide seats, respectively.
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When Murray on July 13 unveiled a set of 65 separate proposals recommended by his Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee, five current council members joined the mayor, including the council’s land-use committee chair, Mike O’Brien, who is running in District 6.
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The other members standing with Murray were Bruce Harrell, running in District 2, Sally Bagshaw, running in District 7, Tim Burgess, running for Position 8, and John Okamoto, who isn’t running.
The same day, Grant released a plan of his own, endorsed by Sawant and outgoing Councilmember Nick Licata. The blueprint that he, Sawant and their allies trumpeted Wednesday is similar.
They say Murray’s plan heads in the right direction but argue more “immediate policies” are needed.
The candidates are promising they’ll put their plan into action in their first year in office, if elected. They say they’re going to ask additional candidates to sign on.
“This is a critical election year because Seattle is facing a massive affordable-housing shortage,” Sawant said. “There is no more important issue that candidates need to speak out on.”
The candidates may be hoping to gain attention by joining together on the same housing-policy slate. Several of them are challenging current council members.
By aligning themselves with Sawant, the council’s polarizing socialist firebrand, they may be betting they’ll win more votes from her many supporters than they’ll lose among her many detractors.
Morales on Wednesday said her main goal is to “raise the profile of housing issues from a progressive perspective.”
“I’ve been knocking on doors all week and lots of people haven’t voted yet,” she said. “If this helps people make decisions about who they want to support, that’s great.”
Murray’s plan, among other things, features an inclusionary-housing policy that would require residential developers to include some affordable units in their new projects or pay fees. In return, officials would reduce zoning restrictions everywhere.
The alternative plan instead calls for residential developers to pay linkage fees mitigating the demand for affordable housing created by their projects.
The plan’s supporters say the council could enact linkage fees quickly, whereas an inclusionary-housing policy paired with upzones would take years to implement.
The alternative plan also recommends various new protections for tenants and a push to repeal the state’s ban on rent regulations.
It says the city should issue at least $500 million in long-term bonds to finance housing for homeless and very low-income families, and it demands a “one-for-one” replacement requirement, under which the city would ensure that a unit of affordable housing is built for every unit taken away.
Murray’s plan initially included a proposal to allow more density in all of Seattle’s single-family zones. But Burgess and O’Brien later backed away from that part of the road map and the mayor joined them Wednesday, saying he’ll no longer pursue it.
The candidates endorsing the alternative plan have different opinions on what should happen in the city’s single-family zones. Bradburd, for example, has been critical of the Murray proposal. Maddux and Elizalde have been less critical.