Seattle neighborhood councils elevated selfishness to art

We shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to support Seattle neighborhood councils whose agenda excludes tenants, people of color, youth, the poor, and those in need of social services in their neighborhood.

YEARS ago, a former Seattle mayor asked me if I had any advice for him while he was writing his budget proposal. Although flattered, I told him I had no knowledge of what it costs to run a fire department or where to look for savings in transportation or utilities.

I did suggest, however, that it was time to end the city’s subsidy to neighborhood councils. This would remove city money and city staff from lobbying against the changes needed to increase housing affordability. While it’s important that we find ways to encourage civic participation in Seattle, we shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to support neighborhood groups whose agenda excludes renters, people of color, youth. , the poor and those who need social services from them. neighborhoods.

Mayor Ed Murray had the courage to finally withdraw public funds from these unelected and irresponsible vehicles for the personal enrichment of the owners. He has been recognized with no less than three recent opinion pieces in the Seattle Times criticizing his decision.

That same week, The Times reported that rents are rising faster here than in any other American city. And homelessness, which typically declines during times of national economic recovery, continues to rise as more families simply cannot afford to maintain a roof over their heads.

One of the few cities with even higher rents and an even more serious homelessness problem is San Francisco, where the power of neighborhood groups has prevented new housing development for decades, and housing development affordable for low-income people was limited to a few disaster-stricken neighborhoods south of downtown. Seems familiar?

Preventing us from becoming the next San Francisco – a city that is increasingly a playground for the rich – will require two types of public policy intervention. ”

Preventing us from becoming the next San Francisco – a city that is increasingly a playground for the rich – will require two types of public policy intervention. The first is to diversify our approach to subsidized housing so that each neighborhood has an adequate supply of emergency housing, social housing and workforce housing (for example, by adopting Proposition 1 during the primary ballot in August). The second is to dramatically increase the supply of market-priced housing quickly enough to bend the cost curve of rents and house prices. This can be done through zoning changes in single-family neighborhoods which make up 65% of the city.

Neighborhood neighborhood councils stand in the way of both of these goals. By always opposing new developments, they help to slow or prevent the growth of housing at market prices. This, in turn, causes price spirals during times of high demand. By still opposing small units, relaxed parking requirements, secondary suites and any kind of affordable housing for low income people or renters, they help create a de facto economic apartheid that preserves housing wealth. and the privileges of those who already have the most. And by launching collective crises against the placement of social services or emergency housing nearby, they help prevent people in need from seeking help where they live, instead of concentrating social services and emergency housing in neighborhoods already in difficulty.

It is selfishness elevated to the rank of art. The city can’t stop these disproportionately white, wealthy, and interested groups from lobbying against inclusion, but it doesn’t need to fund them.


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