Housing Affordability is Critical to the Future of Seattle. The City of Seattle wants to hear from you to help ensure growth brings benefits to everyone, and to help Seattle continue to be an inclusive and equitable city. Please join us in a year-long conversation about affordability and livability across Seattle. We will have community meetings, neighborhood gatherings, and a lot of activity where you can engage online. We are also organizing Community Focus Groups.

Apply to join a Community Focus Group. The deadline to apply is Friday, February 26th for the general public, and Friday, March 11th for non-English speakers.

Background

Some of you are familiar with the City of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). Last year, Mayor Murray and the City Council called together leaders in our community to help develop a bold agenda for increasing the affordability of housing by convening the HALA Advisory Committee. The 28-member committee included renters and homeowners, for-profit and non-profit developers, and other local housing experts. After months of deliberation, they reached consensus in July and published a report with over 60 recommendations. (You can read more about it here.) Now, the City of Seattle needs your help in guiding implementation of some of the HALA’s proposals.

One of the recommendations is a new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program. MHA would require that all new multi-family and commercial developments either include affordable housing units on-site or pay an in-lieu fee to support the development of new affordable housing. MHA would create housing reserved for community members earning 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) or below – an annual income of about $38,000 for a single person household or $54,000 for a family of four. MHA is expected to create a total of 6,000 new affordable units over the next 10 years.

In order to implement the new MHA program, the City is considering allowing developers to build slightly higher or slightly more floor area in some places. This exchange is both part of the “Grand Bargain” hammered out by members of the HALA committee, and allows the City to make use of a state-approved program used by other cities in Washington. In many cases, this may mean about one more story could be allowed by zoning in a development on an existing multi-family or commercial lot. The changes focus on lands already zoned commercial or multi-family or within urban villages. So, the proposal is in line with existing plans for growth, including Seattle 2035. MHA program areas would be those near our shared investments in transportation, open space, and more.

Why participate?

While the MHA program and other HALA proposals were outlined in broad strokes, many of the details still need to be worked out. We want to know how you think the proposed policies can be implemented well in your neighborhood. Your input will help shape the MHA program and other HALA proposals.

Should there be a focus on certain types of housing like family-size housing? What should the specific height and floor area increases for MHA be? Are there ways urban design of new buildings can be improved when we implement MHA?

These are just a few of the questions members of the Community Focus Groups will address in detail. Community input received in the focus groups and through other HALA community engagement will have considerable weight in the design of the final programs.

Community Focus Groups – who should participate?

Broad representation within focus groups is critically important – including renters, homeowners, members of immigrant and refugee communities, longtime Seattle residents, newcomers, and more. Each of Seattle’s Urban Village areas will be represented by 3 or 4 members of those communities, with a diversity of perspectives present at each meeting.

What about traditionally underrepresented groups?

The City and our public process need your participation. We are dedicated to bringing together diverse groups that reflect the demographics of our city. Please apply if you are a member of a traditionally underrepresented group, including racial or ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees, or non-native English speakers. Applications are available at www.Seattle.gov/HALA in following languages*:

*Applications in languages other than English will be accepted until Friday, March 11th, 8pm. We released these translations later than the version in English, and so more time is available for those just receiving the translated forms.

When?

Very soon! Applications for the general public are due Friday, February 26th, by 8pm. You can email, mail, or hand deliver your filled out form. Note that our office closes at 5pm on the 26th, so if you are delivering by hand, do so before we close.

Community Focus Groups will be formed during the month of March. We will contact all applicants to notify you about decisions of our selection process. Those not selected are invited to attend focus group meetings as members of the public with time for comment.

Focus Group meetings will take place monthly throughout 2016. The expected time commitment is about 5 hours per month, and not more than one meeting per month.

What supports are you providing for Focus Group participants?

We are committed to supporting participants who might need the following assistance in order to participate:

  • Child Care
  • Transportation
  • Translation
  • Interpretation
  • Small Stipend (for low income participants only)
  • Other (tell us!)

Application forms include space for you to indicate which of these supports would help you participate.

Thank you for applying, and please encourage your community members to do the same.

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