Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has reversed course on an element of a controversial proposal to create more affordable housing in the city.
Murray said Tuesday he will not recommend pursuing a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee recommendation that could have changed 94 percent of single-family zones in Seattle.
Murray said he's now calling for renewed public dialogue on how best to increase affordable housing in denser neighborhoods.
"The Council and I created the HALA process because our city is facing a housing affordability crisis. In the weeks since the HALA recommendations were released, sensationalized reporting by a few media outlets has created a significant distraction and derailed the conversation that we need to have on affordability and equity," Murray said.
"Fundamentally, this is a conversation about building a Seattle that welcomes people from all walks of life -- where working people, low-income families, seniors, young people and the kids of current residents all can live in our city.
"We also must not be afraid to talk about the painful fact that parts of our city are still impacted by the intersection of income, race and housing. Look at a map and take a walk through our neighborhoods. We can move beyond the legacy of the old boundaries of exclusion that have remained largely unchanged since nearly a century ago when neighborhood covenants were used to keep people of color south of Madison Street.
"I have always believed that Seattle can step up and have a difficult conversation about our history of racial discrimination and economic inequality. Our shared vision for Seattle includes affordable housing and diversity in all our neighborhoods.
"To advance the broader conversation about affordable housing and equity, I will no longer pursue changes that could allow more types of housing in 94 percent of single-family zones. Instead, we will refocus the discussion on designing denser Urban Centers, Urban Villages and along transit corridors that include more affordable housing."
His decision comes after some sitting council members distanced themselves from the single housing recommendations.
"While the list of recommendations from HALA is long, one specific policy has received the most attention and criticism from neighborhoods across Seattle," a blog post under Tim Burgess' name read from July 28. " It's the recommendation that single-family zoning be relaxed in all areas of the city to allow for new duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats, a policy some believe will lead to speculators buying up homes, tearing them down, and replacing them with more expensive multi-family structures. We should take a step back from any policy that leads to that kind of speculation, disruption, and the widespread loss of existing, more affordable housing."
HALA co-chair David Wetheimer said "The 28 members of the HALA assembled with the understanding that we were developing recommendations related to housing development and livability in Seattle for consideration by the Mayor and City Council. We were not a policy-making body; our job was to develop and refine a set of recommendations that included ways to move the city towards the goal of producing 50,000 units of housing over the next 10 years, with 20,000 of those units being affordable at 80% of median income and below.
"We provided 65 recommendations to the city, which acknowledges both how complex and challenging it will be to meet the goals that the city has set. It is now up to the established processes within city government to consider those recommendations and determine the best path forward for the future of Seattle."