by LISA HERBOLD
Seattle Transit Blog editor Martin H. Duke misrepresented my position when he wrote on Saturday:
Council Candidate Lisa Herbold argues that flexibility in single-family zones will threaten displacement from affordable single-family homes.
Click through to the article in the link above, and you will see that my position relates not to opposing “flexibility,” but to rezoning existing single-family zones without including a companion housing preservation strategy. When we talk about “flexibility” within single-family zones, we are not referring to rezones; rather we are referring to expansion of the current DADU program and allowing backyard cottages in existing single-family zones, which I support. “Flexibility in single-family” zones presupposes the retention, not the elimination, of the single-family zone.
So now that we’ve got the definitions straight, on to the rest of the article, which says:
But current law doesn’t prevent a landlord from renovating or rebuilding a singlefamily home to be more valuable and displacing the tenant. When this redevelopment occurs, the only difference between the law allowing a triplex and demanding a single home is that it forces two additional households out of Seattle.
It’s true that current law doesn’t prevent rebuilding or renovating a single-family structure that displaces the tenant when a new single family structure is built. But it is not a good comparison because it ignores how upzones create incentives for redevelopment. Hopefully it is understood that the frequency of tenants being displaced after a renovation or rebuilding of a single-family home in single-family zones is less than the frequency of displacement from redevelopment that occurs when the value of property is increased after an upzone. It is that frequency of displacement that makes this a pressing issue when contemplating the upzone of approximately 138,000 single family homes, about 36,000 of them home to renter households.
Finally, the mischaracterization of my position and argument against it ends with this sentence:
Whatever compassion we feel for displaced households should also extend to those who never get to live in our city in the first place, solely due to arbitrary regulations.
I have more compassion for a displaced low income family renting one of our scarce affordable family-sized rentals who has to move their family out of the city, pull their children out of school, and suffer a long, emissions-producing commute like this family who Janet Tu profiled in her excellent piece in the Times, than I do for the three higherincome families who otherwise would likely be buying the new homes that are built in the place of that one low-income rental. Do you know why? That low income family has far fewer options, and the hardship they will experience will be much, much greater than the 3 higher-income families will experience not being able to buy one of those 3 pricey new homes.
The issue of compassion aside, I do want Seattle to be a place where people can afford to work and raise a family, no matter what their income. The pitting of existing people who live here now against new ones who might live here in the future is unproductive. We can pursue policies that help both. That is why I support a housing preservation policy to replace existing affordable rental housing in the case that future upzones result in demolition of existing affordable housing.
I also believe that with new development, we desperately need to implement new funding tools to ensure that developers pay for the transportation impacts associated with growth. We need to protect existing affordable housing and build new affordable housing, both with good access to frequent, reliable transit, to make Seattle a truly inclusive city for everyone, whether they already live here or they want to live here.
The author is a candidate for Seattle City Council, District 1, this November.