The "U" Word
Just like Portland, Seattle looks to its single-family neighborhoods to pick up the burden of the city's housing needs. This movement is nation-wide: it is called "The Missing Middle." The planning movement seeks to interject multifamily housing into single-family neighborhoods with duplexes, tri-plexes, row houses, cluster developments and other low and medium-density housing types.
dump neighborhood associations and in a stunning move this summer, Seattle Mayor Murray announced his plan to
When when faced with criticisms of increased density, Lake Oswego planners and some politicians respond proudly that they haven't upzoned SFR neighborhoods. Is there a "yet" implied at the end of the thought? Otherwise, why bring it up? Even though LO has plenty of capacity for housing density along major corridors in the city, I feel in my bones there is another shoe about to fall within our neighborhoods - just a bit for now. I hope I'm wrong.
Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2016 (Excerpts)
Cities Struggle to Add Upscale Housing While Maintaining Diversity
Packing new development into existing neighborhoods vexes locals
Cities from Seattle to Chicago to Washington and
As urban populations near a new apex, city planners are raising the ire of many locals with proposals to allow developers to pack more housing into existing neighborhoods, a process called upzoning, if they pay up to protect or add options for lower-income residents.
The push to add density without sacrificing diversity comes as an influx of professionals are driving up prices and rents in many cities, a force expected to intensify in coming years. The issue has become more severe as large numbers of millennials, pushing off marriage and children, eschew suburban living for amenity-rich urban areas.
The problem has been particularly acute in Seattle, which is gearing up to absorb at least 6,000 new residents a year for the next 20 years. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment has shot up 29% in the last five years, according to the city.
In response, Mayor Ed Murray in late 2014 created a committee made up of for-profit developers, affordable-housing advocates and neighborhood activists. The group proposed a “grand bargain” that would allow developers to build more densely in exchange for affordable housing.
The mayor initially supported a plan to open the nearly two-thirds of the city’s neighborhoods zoned exclusively for single-family homes, many of which are outside the city center, to accommodate a wider range of housing options, like flats, duplexes and triplexes.
But stiff opposition from residents forced the mayor to focus on upzoning proposals in the city center. New commercial developments and multi-family residential projects can exceed current zoning restrictions on how big and tall they can be if developers set aside a portion for affordable housing or pay the city to build affordable units off site.
Seattle’s City Council has approved commercial upzoning and is expected to vote on a framework for similar moves in residential areas later this summer.
But finding the right mix of growth and afford-ability has presented challenges, with debates around upzoning turning intensely political and pitting developers, neigh-borhood activists and affordable-housing advo-cates against one another.
“Whatever you do with rezoning you are invariably stepping on somebody’s foot, or blocking their light or taking their air,” said Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association of Neighborhood Housing and Development, an affordable-housing advocacy organization in New York City.
“A lot of the struggle in New York City was, ‘affordble for whom?’” Mr. Dulchin said. “Is it technically affordable or is this affordable for me?”