HDC Coalition Comment on Seattle Comprehensive Plan Update – Expand Scope for Abundant and Affordable Homes

We, the undersigned organizations, represent a coalition committed to advancing housing affordability and addressing climate change through Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan update, including affordable housing developers and operators, environmental advocates, climate activists, and grassroots housing organizers. We thank you for the opportunity to comment on the scope of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the One Seattle Plan 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. It is essential that the City analyzes a full range of growth alternatives in the EIS. We urge you to expand the scope of analysis of each of the alternative growth strategies and to advance a new transformative Alternative 6, to provide as much flexibility to build as many homes as possible.

This Comprehensive Plan update is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for Seattle to lead the region by reforming land use, increasing density, and allowing for mixed uses in neighborhoods. At this distinctive moment in time, the urgency of the city’s affordable housing crisis is combined with a growing climate crisis and the disturbing reality of persisting inequities. We cannot ignore the interconnectedness that must bind our efforts inextricably on housing, and climate action.

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Get Engaged for Black History Month

“This is a call to everyone… to study the history of Black Americans’ responses to establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected.”

– ASALH, on 2023’s Black History Month theme: Resistance

In honor of Black History Month, we’ve gathered a list of events from around King County with a focus on housing, architecture, art, and history. We truly hope you’ll join us in engaging with some of the Black-led organizations hosting or sponsoring many these events—not just during February, but throughout the year.

Have an event that’s not listed here? Please contact us!

Please note that not all of these events are free, and many require advanced registration. Check the individual event pages for more information.

Throughout February

On view at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) from February 4 through April 30, 2023, From the Ground Up: Black Architects and Designers explores the past, present, and future of architectural talent, while learning about Black pioneers in the field.

Originally created by the Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, with a local addition by curatorial consultant Hasaan Kirkland and co-developed with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, this exhibit celebrates the enduring innovation and impact of Black architects across the United States.

Rainier Avenue Radio is converting the historic Columbia City Theater into a museum for the entire month of February. The Museum will celebrate the achievements and the achievers of the PNW while recognizing the Black excellence that shines today through exhibits and installations.

Early February

Traditional real estate capital sources have historically been less accessible to BIPOC real estate developers and others aiming to improve BIPOC communities via the built environment.  With this lack of access to capital, BIPOC developers have had less opportunity to grow, both in personnel and experience, leading to further inaccessibility to capital and larger, more profitable projects.  In recent years, however, efforts have been made to break these historical patterns of inequity. 

This event will cover some of the best practices and new options for capital-raising for BIPOC community advancement, and discuss what it might take to bring traditional capital market players to give greater attention to historically underserved communities.  

Black architects bring their sense for community connectedness to current and future design within the Puget Sound region. When the community speaks, they want architects to listen and create built environments that serve livability while maintaining neighborhood character. Join us for a discussion with architects, cultural placemakers, and artists as they envision intentional and equitable development that is shaping our evolving communities.

Wa Na Wari’s gathering is intended to offer a space where black homeowners can commune with one another and engage in peer-to-peer discussions on the state of homeownership in Seattle’s King County. Join for an evening of food with neighbors and a facilitated discussion centered around rising property taxes.

NAAM will hold an in-person riveting conversation with Dr. Damion Thomas, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture Curator of Sports. Be inspired, informed, and ignited for action.

Landmark names reflect the values, dreams and remembrances of a city’s residents. Yet when walking around Seattle, most viewers don’t know the people behind the names of local iconic sites. Join historian Mary Henry for a discussion of her new book, Tributes: Black People Whose Names Grace Seattle Sites, and learn about the lives of the many Black figures whose names are found on street signs, parks, concert halls and more.

Late February

Black style has always been able to dream powerful new forms of art into existence when language isn’t enough to express how you feel and the beauty industry can’t keep up with how good you look. Naturally, that style has become a global pop culture obsession.

The Chosen Few and MoPOP present the 10th annual Through the Eyes of Art, a Black History Month celebration. Gather with artists, community leaders, and tastemakers from across Washington State as we honor and revel in the Black experience through hair, clothing, music, and dance.

The past and the present are connected. Take a deep dive into the history of East King County through a racial equity, transportation, and affordable housing lens.

Speakers Chris Randels (Complete Streets Bellevue) and Guillermo Rivera (Eastside for All) will explore the ways that past practices, policies, and laws have contributed to the housing struggles and inequities communities face today in Eastside cities.

Participants will learn about actions they can take to advocate for equitable solutions in land use, transportation, and affordable housing policy.

One Vibe Africa presents Kijiji Night, an incredible evening celebrating Black History Month and African Culture. The evening will feature special musical performances headlined by local musicians, a dynamic panel discussion with community leaders on the history of Black collaboration, storytelling, and spectacular food. One Vibe Africa is also planning for two short film screenings to be available for the public to view.

The BIMA Soiree is a time to come socialize and celebrate Black culture. A night filled with music, art, and a special pop-up from “Black Love Market.” Shop from Black-owned businesses, enjoy some live music and performances, indulge in a night of art, grab a drink from the bistro, and soak in and appreciate the wonderful things the Black community has to offer.

This year’s State of Africatown will feature presentations on the dynamic work happening in our community and the path forward in 2023 and beyond.

Attendees will experience the Induction of Elders of Distinction, a showcase of our youth and hear the annual State of Africatown address followed by an address from Seattle’s Mayor, the Honorable Bruce Harrell.

In the historically white–dominated field of architecture, Black architects have created some of Seattle’s most important landmarks and continue to change the industry. Their work is grounded in guiding principles of community-centered design and empowering underserved communities. Join three generations of Black architects in the Pacific Northwest for a discussion on their work, inspirations, challenges, and hopes for the next generation.

Young Black Homeowners has partnered with African American Leadership Forum to bring you this years Black Equity Party. Homeownership strengthens families and communities. On february 28,2023 we want to celebrate all of our existing and aspiring black homeowners. This night will start with a dinner catered by Island Soul Carribean Restaurant followed by a cocktail social hour hosted by DJ Bankhead. Come out and enjoy the curated safe space specifically for the community to celebrate you and your efforts of achieving or striving towards homeownership.

Appreciating Mark Gropper

Mark Gropper, Executive Director of Renton Housing Authority, retired on January 6. We hope you will join us in congratulating Mark on this well-deserved new chapter!

Mark’s affordable housing story begins in 1983. He was studying pre-engineering at UW and eager to move out on his own, so when his friend told him about an opening for an “easy gig” where he could do his homework while watching a desk, he took it. That’s how 19-year-old Mark ended up working the graveyard shift at Seattle Housing Authority’s Morrison Hotel. With shifts from 11pm to 7am, the work turned out to be far from easy—but early on it had him hooked.

“It opened my eyes to a different world and a more enriching career. From that point on I poured my energy into being a houser.”

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Affordable Housing Newbie at a Community Meeting

My name is Elan, and I joined the HDC team in October as Communications Manager. I’m here because I believe that everyone deserves to be safely, affordably housed—but when it comes to policy, advocacy, and even the vocabulary of the affordable housing sector I have a lot to learn!

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. So if you’re someone who is interested in advocacy action but doesn’t have much experience, or you’re also new to the sector, or you just want to learn a little more about the landscape of affordable housing, then I’m inviting you to come along with me!

Right now, the City of Seattle is hosting a series of Community Meetings about the Comprehensive Plan. This only happens once every 10 years—and it’s a BIG deal!

Part 1: What is a Comprehensive Plan?

Right now, cities throughout the King County region are taking on their major, once-every-ten-years comprehensive plan updates. A comprehensive plan (often abbreviate to “comp plan”) is essentially a blueprint for city growth. It guides decisions about what kinds of housing can be built where.

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Honoring Frontline Staff, Board Service

White text on a blue background reads: 2022 Frontline Staff & Board of Directors Awards.

At our Annual Member Meeting last week, we had the honor of presenting our Board of Directors Award and Frontline Staff Award. Both of these awards recognize individuals who have been outstanding champions of HDC’s mission and have made an important impact in the community and affordable housing sector. We hope you will join us in congratulating these four awardees!

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3 Housing Facts for Transgender Awareness Week

3 Housing Facts for Transgender Awareness Week banner

November 13-19 is Transgender Awareness Week, a week for elevating transgender existence and resilience and for calling attention to the issues that transgender and gender non-conforming people face. It’s a week of education and action in the lead up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), when transgender communities and their allies hold vigils to commemorate the lives of all transgender people lost to violence in the last year.

When it comes to housing security for transgender communities, and particularly for BIPOC transgender and gender non-conforming people, the numbers are stark. We realize that our vision for a King County in which all people live with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes is one that cannot be achieved without reckoning with these disparities. As such, we’re including a roundup of good resources and stories of both the challenges and palpable successes of Queer and Trans BIPOC housing projects taking root in our community with great resiliency and triumph.

But first, the facts are:

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Appreciating Mark Santos-Johnson

A picture of Mark Santos-Johnson

Mark Santos-Johnson, the Community Development & Housing Manager at the City of Renton, retired on May 20th.

Mark has worked tirelessly in the housing sector for more than 40 years – from working to develop and manage the Broadview Emergency Shelter with the Fremont Public Association (now Solid Ground), to working as the manager of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program at the Washington State Housing Finance Commission supporting the construction of thousands of affordable homes across the state, to spending the last twenty-two years at the City of Renton dedicated to developing affordable housing and providing greater opportunities for the community’s current and future residents.

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HDC Statement on Initiative 135

Housing is a human right and the foundation needed for a community to thrive. Yet, residents of Seattle are facing an unprecedented challenge in finding and keeping a home that they can afford. Rising rents continue to displace people further from their communities and push our most vulnerable neighbors into homelessness. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income families are disproportionately impacted, with a higher share being housing cost-burdened or experiencing homelessness. We are fast losing our economic and ethnic diversity.

Simply put, the need for affordable housing in Seattle is greater than ever and we need to do everything we can to increase the city’s supply of affordable homes. As daunting as the crisis is, we know what works. Seattle has a strong history of taking action to address the sustained affordable housing needs of our low-income neighbors paying too much for rent or experiencing homelessness.

Seattle Housing Authority’s Hoa Mai Gardens

The City has a robust system for efficiently developing and operating affordable homes, including through the Seattle Housing Authority, multiple public development authorities, and many non-profit and community-based organizations. Altogether, our HDC member organizations have created or preserved 20,000 affordable homes in Seattle, leveraging federal, state, and private resources to stretch public dollars for more homes, while lifting up community voice and fighting displacement.

The primary constraint on our ability to scale proven affordable housing models is the limited public resources available to fund affordable housing. As HDC, we are concerned that Initiative 135, filed by the House our Neighbors coalition, distracts funds and energy away from what our community should be focusing on – scaling up affordable housing for low-income people. We do not need another government entity to build housing when there are already insufficient resources to fund existing entities.

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Patience Malaba Named New Executive Director

We are very pleased to announce that Patience Malaba has been selected as HDC’s next Executive Director.

Patience Malaba, HDC’s new Executive Director

For almost four years at HDC, and in increasing levels of responsibility, Patience has served as HDC’s Director of Government Relations and Policy. Prior to that, she managed Seattle for Everyone, a broad coalition that was central to the success of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). Previous positions also include work with Futurewise and the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 6

Patience has been recognized for her leadership in addressing the intersecting crises of affordable housing, racial equity, and climate change and was the 2020 Bullitt Foundation Environmental Fellowship awardee. A powerful advocate for affordable homes and equitable communities, her efforts have advanced cross-sector partnerships that result in equitable access to affordable housing. A demonstrated commitment to housing access, equity, and community makes her the ideal person to guide HDC into the next phase of our leadership role in creating affordable housing for all people in King County.

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