City Council’s HALA upzoning West Seattle hearing draws passion from both sides
By Gwen Davis
West Seattle held its first public hearing for the HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) and MHA program (Mandatory Housing Affordability) on Tuesday night. Taking place at Chief Seatlh International High School, the event allowed over 50 community members to offer public testimony both for and against the proposals, with around 150 people in attendance.
About HALA and MHA
In the next 10 years, HALA’s goal is to have 30,000 new market-rate homes, and 20,000 affordable homes. "Affordable units" are housing that cost no more than around $1,000 per month. The city plans to do this through upzoning parts of the city, and mandating that developers contribute to solving the housing shortage, either by building affordable units themselves or by paying the city.
Read our previous coverage here.
The panel of city officials who listened to the testimony were: City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Lorena Gonzálezd, Teresa Mosqueda, as well as HALA committee chair Rob Johnson and city staffer Sara Maxana.
Many residents offered testimony in support of the plans, including MLK County Labor Council members, and city architects. "More affordable housing is needed," one resident said. "Density is the answer," she continued, and noted that many people who work in the city, simply cannot afford to live there.
“You can stop the up-zoning if you don’t want it,” one testifier noted, by neighbors deciding to simply not sell their property.
One resident said, “I’m on the outside looking in, there’s no place in Seattle for me right now,” and therefore we need MHA. We need place for people “who look like me,” she said.
However, others testified who weren't in support of the plans. Some people said that while they are in favor of affordable housing, the city needs to invest in more robust infrastructure first to accommodate the additional Seattleites. One resident complained about hostile sentiment towards single-family unit owners, and claimed that the plans will displace people who have lived in West Seattle for years. Other opponents said this plan doesn't make the cut because parks and green spaces will be lost. Another resident said that HALA is a "one-size-fits-all" plan, that doesn't allow enough nuance for specific neighborhoods. He also added that he doesn't appreciate being compared to a Trump supporter.
But Amanda Sawyer, director of the JuNO group, said that the proposal doesn't ask developers to contribute enough, and that only 9 affordable units would be built in the Junction. A Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) official said that there is currently a large shortage for affordable housing and the waitlist is too long. HALA and the MHA program -- while not perfect -- can help get the housing shortage under control.
The committee will hear more testimony from other parts of the city in additional public meetings. There is no date scheduled yet for the council to approve HALA and MHA.