Herbold: Passage of MHA and what’s next
Seattle City Councilmember for District 1, Lisa Herbold posted this update on the future of the Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation passed by the council recently:
On Monday the Full Council took its final vote on the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation. As I’ve written about before, the trade off of additional development capacity for contributions to affordable house is a step toward funding more housing, but this step is not enough.
The City plans to develop 6,000 affordable units with the implementation of the MHA program. However, I also believe that we will lose many currently affordable units due to demolition and redevelopment of existing housing. The estimated gain of 6,000 new units built through the MHA program may be offset by these losses.
Though our city is full of the stories of people whose rental housing was torn down and replaced with a building that they would not be able to afford to rent, the city relies on data. The data we have about demolished rental units is scarce, so we have to draw some conclusions about what data we do have.
From 2016-2018, 2699 units were lost to demolition. (see link) One survey reports that about 70 percent, or 1889 of those units, were affordable to low income households with incomes at or below 50 percent of median or 1889 units.
During same period the city spent $175 million to create 2,565 subsidized units but according to OH Annual Production Reports, only 1434 of those reached down and rented for those with incomes below 50 percent of median.
In effect, over this period, demolitions alone accounted for and led to a net loss of over 400 very low income units serving renters earning less than 50% of the median income in Seattle. Applications are pending right now for removal of another 910 units.
Due to this concern, I have brought forth another bill to address the displacement of our most vulnerable communities. I initially wrote about this billat the end of February, and was first heard in Councilmember Johnson’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee on March 6. You can watch that discussion here. Housing built through the MHA program will help build affordable housing, but in order to address the affordable housing crisis we will need many tools, and specifically tools to address the loss of affordable housing and displacement we are seeing in our vulnerable communities.
A review of permitting data reveals only about 1 in 10 new projects required removal of existing housing, conforming to city figures showing that during the 2016-2018 period the total units demolished (2699 units) amounted to about one-tenth the amount of new units added (28,244 new units). While the new units were expensive and smaller, most lost were low income and larger with many larger ones (single family rentals) serving families or up to 8 unrelated individuals.
In other words, if my legislation, as some people fear, created a disincentive to build on sites with existing housing, this would not significantly affect rates of new construction. Further, my bill is limited only to five areas of the city where the risk of displacement is high and access to opportunity low, further limiting the percentage of new construction that would be affected.
I want to thank Puget Sound Sage, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Black Community Impact Alliance, Catholic Community Services, Housing Development Consortium, HomeSight, and WashingtonCAN for coming to present, and those of you that attended the Lunch and Learn this week hosted by Councilmember Mosqueda where we continued the conversation about displacement and the need to address it.