Though policy ideas under consideration by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s blue-ribbon panel on housing affordability are starting to shake out, the group is getting an extra month to deliver its recommendations.
Policy ideas under consideration by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s blue-ribbon panel on housing affordability are shaking out into three distinct categories, an adviser said Monday.
But Murray is giving the group an extra month to deliver its recommendations.
In the first category, there are tools that members of the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee have more or less accepted, said the adviser, Robert Feldstein, who directs Murray’s Office of Policy and Innovation.
Those include utilizing public land for housing, enacting tenant protections, cutting red tape for developers, tweaking zoning in mid- and low-rise zones and increasing Seattle’s housing levy.
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But the group is unlikely to recommend a second category of policies, such as rent control and the use of municipal bonds to finance a large amount of affordable housing.
Finally, the group is considering an idea City Council member Mike O’Brien is pushing: Requiring developers to produce affordable housing or pay “linkage fees” on new construction that the city would use to fund housing elsewhere.
“That’s one of the big pieces we’re still trying to work out,” Feldstein said. “I think there are (things that are) accepted, there are some things that we’re probably, clearly not going to move forward on, and then there are some things in the middle.”
The co-chairs of the committee last week requested a one-month extension from the end of May until the end of June, said Feldstein.
The group’s need for more time isn’t a surprise. Members met several times over a period of months before agreeing on a two-sentence “problem statement.”
Still, the delay could be viewed as a setback for Murray, who has described rising rents and home prices as a crisis for officials to tackle with a “sense of urgency.”
When the mayor announced his 28-member task force in September, he compared it to his Income Inequality Advisory Committee. It hammered out a compromise in early 2014 to put Seattle on a path to raise its minimum wage.
“Housing affordability is the next major policy area we must tackle … and we must act with as great a sense of urgency as we did with the minimum wage,” Murray said then.
Feldstein said the extension isn’t cause for concern.
“This is a sign that people are taking care to make sure we get it right,” said the adviser. “The sense of urgency is there. I just think it’s a big task.”
Murray has prided himself on ability to reach consensus on tough policy problems by forcing people with disparate interests into the same room.
Now the mayor is ramping up his personal involvement in the HALA Committee’s negotiations, Feldstein said.
But by June 30, when Murray will have the housing recommendations on his desk, the council may have moved ahead on its own.
The council in October approved a resolution requesting that Murray prepare a proposed linkage-fee program ordinance for review by June 1.
Councilmember Nick Licata is working on legislation to further protect renters from evictions caused by big rent increases. He and Councilmember Kshama Sawant also plan to introduce a bill asking the state Legislature to grant Seattle authority to enact rent control.
Their town-hall meeting on rent control last month drew hundreds of people.
“The council is going to do what it wants,” Feldstein said. “But we’ve been working with the council this entire time. … We’re hoping a small delay will still work with (the council’s) time frame and will still work with all the things they care about.”