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HDC Member Highlight: The Nehemiah Initiative

The Nehemiah Initiative Seattle has had quite a start-up year. The nonprofit formed on January 1 of this year but has been a functioning group and mission for almost 20 years.

The Nehemiah Initiative Seattle is a faith-based community development initiative (FBDI). Its mission is to empower the African American community in the Seattle region and beyond to support the retention of historically Black institutions by advocating for development of real property assets owned by those historically Black institutions.

In their first year, the Nehemiah Initiative is working to provide affordable homeownership and rental opportunities on Black-owned church properties. This endeavor addresses the critical need to increase Black homeownership while symbiotically conserving Black churches. Currently, with the displacement of Black congregates, Seattle churches are closing as congregates move to the suburbs. Due to gentrification, this has resulted in a loss of over a dozen historically Black churches over the last 10 years.

Black churches have major purpose with community building and has served that purpose for hundreds of years. These institutions have been centers for resources, political activity, economic advocacy, and social gatherings. At the same time, churches are the most Black-owned property in the city. The Nehemiah Initiative strive to create solutions that align these missions to benefit both churches and community.

The Nehemiah Initiative is exploring all housing options in this effort – from single family, multifamily, cooperative, condos, townhomes, and single cottages for each of their sites. Since the need is so great to close the Black wealth gap, while addressing gentrification, a wide array of tools is needed to make these property developments financially feasible and retain Black communities in Central Seattle. In addition, it would change the economic model of churches relying on solely congregation contributions to revenue gained from property development. Expanding affordable homeownership funding and rental options is imperative to address these challenges.

There has been favorable work on a state-level, city-level, and now federal focus on increasing Black homeownership. Major focus of favoritism of white families in homeownership.  Wealth creation. 7 min ish. During the legislative session, the organization focused on HB 1377. Now, they are working with the Equitable Development Initiative to inform the local implementation in Seattle.

The Nehemiah Studio is an on-going set of studio courses at the University of Washington in the College of Built Environments. They ran these courses in for the last two school years and are running another in 2022. The course employs students studying urban design, architecture, and real estate to comprehensively study the church sites to produce a vision for these developments along with financial analysts. In 2021, students produced a comparative analysis with the additional density bonuses offered for building on faith-owned land and the underlying zoning and developed scenarios based on client needs/desires, site constraints, zoning, neighborhood needs, and stakeholder input.

A major setback the organization is grappling with is an amendment added to CB 120081 for religious property density allowances that was passed few weeks ago. The Nehemiah Initiative was intended to explore housing options for 80% average median income (AMI) to develop workforce housing and moderate-income rental housing. This amendment requires the development to serve low-income renters at 60% (AMI) to qualify for the density bonus, but in return would require deep subsidies for the Nehemiah Initiative’s development plans. Considering this amendment, the organization is left to use homeownership developments as an only option to support their communities’ needs.

Despite this challenge, the Nehemiah Initiative has major milestones ahead on the second half of their first year. Not to mention, the organization is a key leader in HDC’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Homeownership Initiative. The goal of this is increasing Black homeownership by 60,000 new homeowners – or 3,000 new homeowners annually – doubling the Black homeownership rate and closing the Black-white homeownership gap in the Puget Sound region by 2041.

Currently, the organization reflects on historic planning debacles and policy making. They are exploring possibilities to create workforce rental housing for their communities with the Office of Housing and other community partners. To contribute to the Nehemiah Initiative today and help the African American community thrive from within, the organization is accepting contribution in the form of checks to Goodwill Baptist Church 126 15th Ave Seattle, WA 98122 in care of Nehemiah Initiative.

HDC Member Highlight: BUILD LLC

BUILD LLC is a multi-disciplinary architectural design firm with a diverse portfolio of work that demonstrates elegance, integrity, and simplification of the complex. With over 20 years of experience rooted in integrated design and a working knowledge of construction, BUILD partners with commercial developers, corporate and facility managers, institutional and educational planners, and residential clients to create projects that provide lasting value. BUILD’s focus is on thorough research, accurate program design, ensuring client value, and solving the right problems.

They have the experience and expertise in everything from master planning, feasibility studies, and project cost analysis, to full design documentation and various permitting and entitlement processes. The BUILD team has developed and built nearly every type of project, and always brings an unmatched, robust, construction administration service during the crucial phases of project building, implementation, and commissioning.

BUILD is truly a full-service firm, and their foremost attention is in relating to clients on a fundamental level, and ensuring that they handle each client and project with respect and care.

BUILDing a Foundation

BUILD’s founder Kevin Eckert and his longtime partner Andrew van Leeuwen began their careers at Swenson Say Fagét engineers where they learned the nuts and bolts of construction, and designing and permitting from the engineers perspective. Not surprisingly, when Kevin subsequently founded BUILD, the firm offered design and construction services; although BUILD no longer provides the latter, the team brings this sensibility and know-how to all of their projects—every line they draw is executed with a deep knowledge of the complexity that goes into putting buildings together and their commensurate construction costs.

BUILD brings their collaborative and education-driven values to HDC. At the heart of BUILD’s philosophy is the sharing of information, and the widely-read BUILD blog allows the team to engage in a dialogue — ideas, insights, concerns etc. — with a global audience. The architectural paradigm of the past incentivized architects to keep their ideas, methods, and processes to themselves, which resulted in an exclusive system of design. This is antithetical to the very nature of an affordable and equitable society, and social media offers design professionals the opportunity to create a new transparent model. For the last 15 years, through its various social media platforms, BUILD has been able to foster communication and collaboration with the public and within the profession.

BUILDing with Values

“As architects concerned with our collective future, and who care deeply about community, we aspire to make projects that ensure a high quality of life for current and future generations. This begins with having a home that meets our basic needs; we know that being able to feel secure contributes to an entire household’s well-being and sense of belonging, particularly the most vulnerable: our children. According to BUILD, “We also appreciate that all other forms of security (nutrition assistance, employment, relationships…) flow from having stable and dependable housing. We continue to advocate for removing barriers to providing more access to affordable housing through our work, our widely read blog, and in our communities.”

BUILD is working on several projects through its satellite office in Sisters, Oregon, which include workforce housing that will allow families to reside within walking distance of their employers and schools, and the opportunity to purchase their homes—and by default, to build equity. This kind of work excites BUILD. Additionally, BUILD was asked to design and develop a series of prototype cottages and townhomes for multiple sites within and on the edge of the current Sisters Urban Growth Boundary. Projects of this scale further underscore BUILD’s commitment to creating affordable home options for local families and local businesses.

BUILDing Community

BUILD LLC considers it a priority to create impactful philanthropic programming, and to engage with, enrich, and bolster various non-profit organizations.

In 2020, BUILD launched its Humanity in Action Racial Equity Scholarship to support entrepreneurial high school students focused on inciting change. As a company that provides urban planning and design services, BUILD has the opportunity to shape our physical environment and influence locales throughout the Northwest. The BUILD staff continually strive to make places that are accessible for all, and to do so in a socially- and racially-just manner. In the midst of the most powerful social movement our country has experienced in decades, BUILD’s scholarship recognizes the important work so many are performing in support of racial and social equity. The first scholarship was awarded in 2021.

From 2009 to 2019, BUILD hosted and participated in a yearly charity ride from Seattle to Vancouver, the revenue of which supported two organizations each year, raising an annual average of $22,000 and a ten-year total of $206,000. For 2019’s 188-mile ride, proceeds benefited Seattle’s Bike Works and Team Gleason. Post-pandemic, they fully intend to resume this impactful, team building, and fun program!

Entering HDC membership during the current health crisis, BUILD is navigating – professionally and personally – the intersection of health and housing. “While we at BUILD have a deeper understanding of disease transmission and how to design buildings and systems that will reduce potentially negative health outcomes, over the last 15 months we have been confronted by the systemic racism and inequalities that are embedded in our culture, and by extension, our industry. We are no longer conducting business as usual; we have made personal commitments to continue educating ourselves on the myriad inequities and injustices that pervade society, and the roles we may play in eradicating them—for each other, for our clients, for our profession, and for our world.”

Welcome to the HDC movement, BUILD!

HDC Member Highlight: BEE Consulting

It was BEE Consulting’s mission-driven work that led them into the affordable housing sector.

Formed in 1999, BEE Consulting’s primary focus has always been to perform superior building envelope design for their clients and community. Over the years, the team has added additional services that round out the package of what their consultants can provide including full building energy analysis, weatherization design, window testing, air barrier design and testing, and infrared thermography.

BEE’s team is comprised of a group of licensed professional engineers, consultants, experienced construction inspectors, highly qualified fenestration and air barrier testing technicians and CAD drafters who have extensive experience in envelope details and materials specifications. Their team’s diverse backgrounds and connections abroad help them give a special insight to the international work and development practices.

As new members of HDC, the BEE Consulting team is excited to collaborate with other leaders in the sector on sustainable and affordable building. Their team is eager to provide insight and advise as much as possible. They look forward to giving back to the community through affordable and energy-efficient solutions.

BEE has already partnered with many fellow HDC members. BEE consulted on one project especially cherished to members and partners, the Filipino Community Village. Located in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle, Filipino Community Village provides affordable housing opportunities for households with seniors 55 and older. You can watch a recording of project partners discussing the incredible collaboration and project during our Affordable Housing Week event, Increasing Options for Aging in Place.

With BEE, the team is designing for more cost-effective and sustainable communities. They explore affordable solutions that can also reduce a building’s carbon footprint and energy costs. This is fundamental to their decision making and recommendations. BEE offers many services to meet each building envelope engineering needs, including a variety of services for new design, remediation, research, and forensics. They have a strict policy to provide accurate costs for all their services so developers can appropriately budget.

BEE has been sharing and advocating for a special promising practice for affordable housing: triple pane windows. Standard windows are single or double pane, but the extra glass can make units more energy efficient, comfortable, and durable. As with new double paned window installations, a seal between each pane makes the windows airtight and allows for improved insulation and can improve up to 20-30% on energy efficiency. Because of these insulating properties, triple pane windows can help regulate unit temperature at a comfortable level, reducing monthly energy bills.

While some sustainable building practices – like solar paneling – can be a very expensive investment, triple pane windows are particularly worthwhile considering windows can take up 30% of the wall. Triple pane windows are a durable, long-term investment as they last for 30-40 years. These can be utilized for large or small windows. Lastly, triple pane windows can help the overall comfort of a unit. Triple pane windows are more effective at keeping out sound, which is particularly beneficial in King County metropolitan areas.

As a steward of sustainable development, BEE Consulting is excited to be joining HDC and assisting fellow members in simple, eco-friendly improvements to projects. To learn more about this incredible team, visit their website or reach out to Telman Gasanov, BEE’s Principal & Energy Department Manager.

Welcome, BEE!

Harvard ManageMentor: Education, Commitment, Opportunity

Education. Commitment. Opportunity. According to our members, these keywords best encapsulate HDC’s Harvard ManageMentor program. We have officially closed our first year of the program and many teams and individuals across HDC membership took full advantage of the opportunity. Below is feedback we’ve collected about the program.

You can register for HMM Year 2 here. 

Year 1 Participant:

I was recently promoted into a junior leadership position, and Harvard ManageMentor seemed like a great way to start thinking of myself as a leader- instead of just an analyst.

Now that you’re in the program, what general factors have been especially important in sustaining high engagement? 

The goals I have set within the program, for use throughout the following weeks, have helped me to implement the new skills I’m learning and stay focused on adding what I’m learning to my daily routine.  I’ve also included the course as my main development goal for two consecutive annual performance evaluations which drive my wage increase and yearly bonus.

What specific courses have been the most interesting and relevant to you? 

I really learned a lot from Feedback and Coaching, as well as Meeting Management. I’m not comfortable being the center of attention, and it’s helped me to have some outside help in getting more comfortable in those areas – setting boundaries in a conversation, tackling difficult topics, and time management.

We often hear that “finding the time” is the biggest obstacle for adult learners with full-time jobs. How did you approached that time challenge?

For the first few months, I was training a new colleague and couldn’t find the time during my regular work schedule to fit it in. Starting in 2021, I was able to carve out a couple afternoons back to back each month to step away from the regular workspace and log in to the month’s session.  My manager has encouraged me to complete the work on company time whenever possible.

We also hear that it can be extremely helpful when participants have the chance to share what they’re learning with colleagues in their own workplaces. Have has your team found ways to do that?

The Coaching module gave me the idea to schedule a weekly conversation with my colleague, rather than wait for a fire that needs putting out to talk to each other. He joined the team last year and will be working separately from me and our manager even when we return to the office. I wanted to keep the lines of communication more open than they had been with my former colleagues, and build that relationship so that when I am promoted into a higher leadership position, we have the groundwork in place.

If you’ve already applied what you’re learning to a specific situation at work, can you briefly describe it?

I used the Delegating module to shift the dynamic between me and my colleague. He still had a tendency to come to me for answers that were easily found in our internal and external resources, so I started directing him back to those for the answers rather than just giving him the information. This has freed up more of my time and also empowered him to know where to go for answers on his own. He still comes to me if he doesn’t understand a policy or process, but now he knows where to start.

Anything else would you like to share with HDC, with other participants, and/or with future participants?

I really appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow using this program. When my manager approached me with the idea, it felt like a heavy lift, especially with the recent turnover on our team. But it has been a pleasure to hear all the anecdotes from diverse and interesting people in all kinds of different fields, and really helpful to watch the “Right and Wrong” videos acting out scenarios to show more useful ways to interact with one another.  I’m really pleased with the way this program has been put together, and I would recommend it to colleagues and friends who want to get more comfortable with seeing themselves as leaders.

Rafn Company on their experience with the program:

Finding a good external leadership training course is difficult and finding one with room for a Rafn cohort is really unique. The idea of a potentially ongoing source with a proven curriculum was too good to pass up. The structure could allow us to build a group of graduates over 3 – 5 years that would be really strong leaders. And the networking is a real plus.

Now that you’re in the program, what general factors have been especially important in sustaining high engagement? 

The structure that we put in place with internal meet-ups for our four participants has created real accountability amongst our team. Also having management interested and engaged with participants and seeing what they are learning. We think the café’s have strong potential if more people used them consistently.

How have the group café discussions been going? What has another café participant shared that has resonated with you or caused you to think differently about something?

The cafes help to keep people on track with the course work and are a good chance to network. Sharing would perhaps be more forthcoming if the cafes could meet in person. Sometimes sharing personal stories over Zoom with strangers is a bit more difficult. From our internal meetups, it was interesting to learn that a couple of our cohort did not previously view themselves as leaders, but the program has opened their perspectives..

We often hear that “finding the time” is the biggest obstacle for adult learners with full-time jobs. How did the Rafn team approached that time challenge? 

Despite the fact that we have encouraged our people to use their time at work to help get the homework done, they all report that uninterrupted time is key to learning and retaining the information. That has led most to doing the sessions from home. The plus is that it is super accessible and you can do the courses from anywhere.

We also hear that it can be extremely helpful when participants have the chance to share what they’re learning with colleagues in their own workplaces. Has Rafn found ways to do that? 

Our group of four participants meets once a month for an hour (via Zoom). They share what they are learning and what they are experiencing as they work through the course. We think that has really added value to the program for our team. Every one of our participants has expanded their leadership role within the company over the past year of the program, so the trickle down effect is in play at multiple levels on a daily basis.

Anything else would you like to share with HDC, with other participants, and/or with future participants?

Any technical staff would benefit from these courses. It is the kind of training that isn’t common in our industry. It really teaches how to better interact with others to get results and build camaraderie. Others suggest taking full advantage of the conversation cafes.

HDC Member Highlight: Whitley Evergreen

Over 75 years of off-site construction experience comes with a suite of services and benefits when building with Whitley Evergreen.

Whitley Manufacturing Co., Inc. was founded in South Whitley, Indiana, after World War II to provide homes for returning veterans. As you can imagine, the company has grown significantly throughout that time. By 1992, the factory had manufactured 25,000 units. In the early 2000s, Whitley expanded to two new locations, Rochester, Indiana and Seattle, WA. Whitley Evergreen is the local branch of the company and one of the newest members of HDC. Their multiple plants provide true coast-to-coast service of modular and off-site construction.

Whitley Evergreen’s focus on affordable housing is aligned with their efficient building practices and commitment to community. To Whitley Evergreen, the opportunities to participate in meaningful projects is one of the exciting things about the affordable housing market – knowing that these kinds of projects can draw and bring together all kinds of people with various backgrounds and skills, and helping the community grow at the same time.

Whitley Evergreen stands out in their construction processes, with modular construction principles? to manufacture buildings. In joining the HDC community, Whitley Evergreen would like to share open communication with members, as they are an extremely easy team to communicate with. The team encourages folks to ask any and all questions on how their modular construction process works!

They firmly believe that their method of construction is quicker, more cost effective, and a much less disruptive and environmentally responsible way to build. “We love to teach others of our practices and explain in detail and by example the advantages of modular construction,” explained Alan Duer, General Manager of Whitley Evergreen. “We are proud of how little red tape there is at Whitley Evergreen and our team’s willingness and excitement to explain the benefits of modular construction and the many unique and advanced processes behind it.”

They are also a company with a leading heart for compassion and community. The Whitley team actively looks to how they can assist in the community and help those in need. Recently, the Whitley Evergreen facility assisted King County and Catholic Housing in building the Elliot Avenue Homeless Transitioning Campus, comprised of numerous modular buildings to assist in helping those transitioning from homelessness. While the project was in construction, the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across King County. The project partners were challenged to assist those transitioning from homelessness while also protecting vulnerable individuals on the street from COVID-19. Last Fall, project partners discussed the project, wins, challenges, and lessons learned with HDC members.

In joining HDC, Whitley Evergreen is an interested observer – keeping an eye on the many different types of affordable housing people are building and figuring out how their factory and modular construction can add value to a lot of the types of projects they are seeing. They are very interested in having a bigger role in developing building plans and creating future affordable housing projects.

“We are really excited about the future for the entire modular construction industry being involved in a lot more affordable housing projects. More and more folks are becoming aware of the control you have over costs and quality by using modular construction,” explained Alan. “We believe that these two more controlled variables in our construction processes will allow affordable housing projects to be not only be more affordable to the homeowner, but also the developer allowing for capital to be spared for possibly more future affordable housing projects.”

Whitley Evergreen sites their commitment to quality as the basis for their steady growth over the last 75 years. Alan highlighted this commitment, “One valuable lesson learned is to never sacrifice finishing your work to meet a schedule. Projects can be delayed for a variety of reasons, but the workmanship should never be compromised because of the lack of time.”

With Whitley joining HDC, they are excited to foster more relationships in the affordable housing sector and be a resource for those interested in offsite construction. If you and your team are interested in learning more about Whitley’s process, reach out to Alan for more information. You can also watch our Learn at Lunch with the Whitley team here.

Welcome to the HDC movement, Whitley! We are grateful to have innovative builders like you.

HDC Member Highlight: Square Peg & Weld Seattle

It is no secret finding a pitch perfect team is difficult. For the owners of Square Peg, Amy and Brady King, this challenge was heightened by the recession and workforce shortages in 2014. Square Peg had the work, the clients, and the partners but desperately needed a complete staff of skilled craftspeople.

By the time the two found their all-star team, they discovered a whole new mission for their vocations.

All of their top candidates had extensive criminal histories. Something that most employers turn away from. However, Amy and Brady looked at each employee seeking a new start and saw each of their potential. “Their stories about reentry and the criminal justice system were so heartbreaking,” Amy said. “One hundred percent of them experienced significant childhood trauma, and they all took responsibility for the decisions they had made.”

Square Peg’s mission grew from building buildings in Seattle to transforming communities through the building of quality spaces and productive people. This mission is proudly the center piece of what they do.

While Square Peg grew, their efforts to support their employees in the reentry process did to. “A job is one thing. It provides a community, a purpose, financial compensation, and independence,” explained Amy, “But there are so many additional barriers to reentry. Housing was definitely the biggest.” At the time, few programs were available for formerly incarcerated people to connect with housing. Despite having a job, many Square Peg employees were struggling to find stable, long-term, and affordable housing.

                       

Thus, Amy, Brady and a number of their staff founded Weld Seattle. Weld is a non-profit with a truly one-of-a-kind approach to housing formerly incarcerated folks. To support employees in finding transitional housing, Amy asked development partners if Square Peg employees can stay in the vacant developments while awaiting proper permitting. In Seattle, buildings can sit vacant 12-18 months waiting for permit approval. In the meantime, developers pay a significant amount in fees throughout that period towards the empty residence. With some convincing, many partners agreed. This unconventional agreement has transformed into Weld’s entire housing model and city legislation.

With support from housing champions on Seattle City Council, the Weld team helped to create legislation to “donate” vacant properties while awaiting permitting for transitional housing. It creates a tax incentive for the properties and waives fees for vacant developments since the space is occupied. Nearly 60% of Weld members have moved from Weld housing into a permanent home.

Weld Seattle has continued to house folks while launching Weld Works which will temporarily place workers in construction and manufacturing companies. So far, Weld Works has placed seventy-nine temporary workers. Forty-eight have moved into permanent employment.

As addressing homelessness is fundamental to their values, Square Peg and Weld are eager to connect with other teams to collaborate on projects in the affordable housing sector. Square Peg’s team not only offers expertise, but also insights with lived experience of resident needs. Square Peg’s goal is to continue to grow more opportunities but also to draw people into the construction workforce. Along with exploring outreach opportunities within prisons, they are looking into apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in partnership with the Department of Corrections.

Within the next year, Weld is opening 1426, a coordinated reentry resource center that brings service providers together. The building, located in the heart of Seattle’s International District, was donated for Weld’s use in 2019 by Sarah and Richard Barton, Founder and CEO of Zillow Group and founder of Expedia and Glassdoor.

The goal of this project is to reduce recidivism rates, homelessness, and addiction by providing a centralized resource center for people already receiving services or involved in programs to ease the transition of formerly incarcerated people into the community. It will offer a space to heal from the trauma that led to member’s involvement in the criminal justice system, along with health and wellness programming, connection to legal resources, mentorship, adult education classes, a construction trades training program, family reunification assistance, connection to public services, and trauma informed yoga, art, and music therapy.

“Having a physical space in the city that allows us to provide comprehensive services to reintegrating citizens has always been part of our dream. Weld was created with the intention of community collaboration. Creating a space where people with lived experience have a voice and a platform to initiate necessary change is the key to our ongoing success in disrupting systemic inequities in Seattle,” explained Amy King. “In a time when the appropriate path to public safety is being questioned, the purpose of 1426 feels more important and relevant than ever. We are so grateful to the Barton’s for their generosity and look forward to identifying other sponsors and partners that can help us achieve our fundraising goal so we can start renovations and implement more programs as soon as possible.”

Square Peg and Weld Seattle welcome HDC members partnership and collaborations in these next projects. To work with Square Peg or to learn more, complete their contact form. To engage in 1426 or Weld’s housing program, reach out to Amy King at [email protected].

Congratulations, LDSC 2021!

On June 23, we had our final session with our 2021 Leadership Development Survey Course Cohort (LDSC). This year was particularly special (and challenging) with completely virtual programming. We appreciate all our participants who embraced our new platform and course schedule this year with flexibility and grace:

  • Asad Abdi
    African Community & Housing Development
  • Megan Altendorf
    GGLO
  • Jennifer DeFluri
    Plymouth Housing
  • Isaac Horwith
    King County DCHS
  • Joshua Janet
    Catholic Housing Services
  • Chris Keenan
    Seattle Housing Authority
  • Dee Knoff
    SMR Architects
  • Michelle Lambert
    Commmunity Roots Housing
  • Yolanda Long
    Bank of America
  • Sunnie Park
    King County Housing Authority
  • Alberta Read Bleck
    Beacon Development Group
  • Amanda Santo
    Multi-Service Center
  • Jesse Simpson
    Bellwether Housing
  • Dan Williams
    DESC

If you’re interested in the applying for next years’ course, reach out to Loren.

Washington Can’t Wait (on Climate and Housing Goals!)

Futurewise works throughout Washington state to encourage healthy, equitable, and opportunity-rich communities. They work to protect our most valuable farmlands, forests, and water resources through wise land use policies and practices, using the tools made available through Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA).

Climate change, housing affordability, and issues of environmental justice are having profound impacts on our environment and communities. Futurewise and HDC recognize these three issues are inherently intertwined, and that by making urban areas affordable and accessible to all through bold affordable housing policy, preventing disproportionate impacts of local pollution on communities of color, and ensuring that cities and counties are planning for climate change.

Futurewise’s new campaign is an opportunity to transform the lives of Washingtonians and the natural environment around us.

Washington Can’t Wait

Futurewise and HDC have been close partners advocating for dense, affordable, and ecofriendly communities. HDC is proud to partner with Futurewise as it builds a grassroots campaign, Washington Can’t Wait (WCW). Working collaboratively with frontline communities, community members, and organizational partners, WCW calls on Washington’s Legislature to pass major changes to the state’s Growth Management Act to include climate change, housing affordability, and environmental justice.

The Growth Management Act is a series of state statutes that requires fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan to manage their population growth. As it stands, Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA) doesn’t require city/county comprehensive plans to adequately plan for affordable housing needs or address climate change. The GMA also fails to address issues of social and racial equality in land-use development. Advocates have a brief window to make big changes to the GMA before Washington’s cities and counties embark on their next comprehensive plan updates, which will lock in policy for the next decade.

WCW campaign is an important first step. We simply cannot wait to address some of the biggest crises facing our state today. The way that our state handles land-use planning and development draws profound connections between climate change, housing affordability, and environmental justice.

You don’t need to look too deeply at our state’s housing policy to see the ways in which it has been discriminatory and biased based on race and class. We see this unfolding in our towns and cities as only certain segments of our population are able to afford to live in clean, walkable neighborhoods with easy access to work, school, play, capital facilities and other amenities. Meanwhile, other folks in our communities are pushed into areas where they experience significant health disparities, are overburdened by pollution, face high risks of displacement, have low mobility options and are at an increased risk for being impacted by increasing climate change related hazards.

We don’t need to think far past this summer to see the disparate impacts that wildfire smoke had on our communities, impacting those who are houseless, who live in housing with poor ventilation, and who needed to travel long distances for work most profoundly. These disparate impacts of climate change and environmental hazards will only become more insidious as the climate crisis worsens and housing prices continue to increase across the state.

As a body of legislation that touches everything from land use to housing prices, capital facilities, utilities, critical habitat preservation, transportation and urban sprawl, the GMA can serve as an important tool to leverage to ensure that our cities and counties are planning for just, equitable, affordable and resilient futures. Re-writing the Growth Management Act to address issues of climate change, housing affordability, and the disparate impacts these crises have on our communities will not  solve these issues in their entirety, but it is a necessary part of the equation if we want to seriously address these issues anytime in the next decade.

Get Involved!

Futurewise will need a lot of support from our communities if we want to get these important GMA updates passed this year. If you are interested in being involved, please consider donating, signing our petitionor volunteering with the WCW campaign. To stay up to date on the campaign, legislation, and calls to action as we move through session, you can sign up to receive email updates from Washington Can’t Wait.

One of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of this legislation in 2021 is to contact your legislators to let them know why these GMA updates are important to you, and that you hope they will make them a priority. You can and should take action to contact your legislators via phone, email or social media by using Futurewise’s Legislator Contact Guide.

If you are interested in scheduling a virtual lobbying meeting with your legislators to advocate for these GMA updates, check out Futurewise’s Virtual Lobbying Training and Virtual Lobbying Guide! And reach out to [email protected] if you want to be connected with other volunteer lobbyists in your district.

Are you a member of an organization that may be interested in working with Futurewise on the Washington Can’t Wait Campaign? Check out the WCW organizational sign-on letter and reach out to [email protected] if you want to add your organization’s name.

Let’s Talk eTOD

In November, we kicked-off our Housing, Equity, and Environment series by discussing density and how it is a key connector between our series’ main topics. Along with denser communities, transit and transportation options will continue to bridge these key topics. Afterall, housing and transportation are often people’s biggest expenses: typical households in auto-dependent neighborhoods spend about 25% of income on transportations. Meanwhile in neighborhoods near mobility options, this statistic drops to 9%.

Equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) is a key player in creating more sustainable, affordable, and socially minded communities.

What is “eTOD”?

Lets break it down starting with the “TOD” part, transit-oriented development. This essentially means building near transit. With more homes and communities near transportation routes, there is less reliance on residents driving to and from where they need to go. Instead, there are transit options near their communities. This includes bus routes, bike lanes, light rail stations, etc.

As King County grows and our freeways clog, policy makers and urban planners are looking to transit-oriented development to capitalize on the intersection and connections of housing and transit. Affordable housing is often located outside of downtown areas and other job dense areas, which leads to longer, burdensome commutes for residents. With transit-oriented development, people are closer to public transit increasing their use and access while at the same time decreasing the financial burden of private transit options.

So, what does equity have to do with TOD? Equitable transit-oriented development will prevent displacement and gentrification in communities that are already located near transit, by creating affordable housing options in these communities.

Leading TOD with Equity

For instance, the King County Light Rail has heightened the risk for displacement for low-income residents in the Rainier Valley and other South Seattle Communities.

To address this concern, the Legislature mandated a new affordable housing policy for the Sound Transit’s surplus land. The 80-80-80 policy required Sound Transit to offer 80% of suitable surplus property to affordable housing developers that make at least 80% of units on site affordable to people earning 80% or less of area median income (AMI). In those cases, Sound Transit can sell land at below market value or even gift the land to affordable housing developers.

“As our transit infrastructure expands, it is vital to make sure that people of all incomes are able to benefit from the increased access and mobility that the light rail provides,” explained Leah Haberman, former HDC staffer.

As you can tell, there are several economic and environmental benefits for eTOD across King County. HDC member projects, like Cedar Crossing, are leveraging the intersection of housing and transit to develop surrounding lands, to connect communities, and increase choice.

Take Action

HDC, along with our eTOD taskforce, supports policies that expand TOD opportunities, but also programs that supplement public transit costs for low-income residents. Reach out to HDC to join our TOD Taskforce.

Furthermore, Vision 2050 will be a blueprint for growth and transportation investments in the four counties in the Puget Sound region. As King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties are projected to add a combined 1.8 million people over the next 30 years, Vision 2050 will guide investments in transportation and focus growth. Next Monday, join HDC, PSRC, King County and other policy leaders, for our Vision 2050 Learn at Lunch. RVSP here to attend.

Pro-Environment, Pro-Density

The Housing & Climate Crises

Take Action for Washington Can’t Wait!

Density is a critical solution to our compounding housing and climate crises. Our region’s housing growth does not meet the scale of our growing population’s needs. To address this sustainably and equitably, we must grow housing options within our current neighborhoods to meet the needs of residents across King County and preserve our local environment. We have a window of opportunity with the Washington Can’t Wait Campaign to take bold action for affordability and environmental justice.

Current estimates report a need of 244,000 additional, affordable homes in King County by 2040 to address our community’s housing gap. Despite our region’s recent economic boom, those with the lowest incomes are being hit hardest. Households making less than 80% average median income are spending over 30% of their income on housing – which leaves very little for food, clothing, and medical expenses. Dense, affordable, and equitable transit-oriented communities are one of the most effective tools we have to address the affordability and climate crises.

Conventional, large detached lots and dispersed housing developments are challenging to maintain and to protect air and water quality. Cities’ are then challenged with financing and maintaining infrastructure for sprawled out communities. This includes schools, utilities, and streets. Dispersed housing cannot support viable public transit, biking, or pedestrian options. The rules that remain unchanged will not address this shortage and could misuse valuable natural resources.

Source: Ashley Zhang, Missing Middle Housing

How do we build “denser”?

As Seattle’s Planning Commission explains, “In the absence of vacant land, new housing must be integrated into the existing fabric of our neighborhoods.” To build denser communities, we need to utilize zoning and land use tools. Zoning policy underlines the connections between housing, the environment, and social justice. Unfortunately, land use laws have remained the same while populations have grown significantly.

More inclusive zoning permits a larger variety of housing types within a specific area or “zone.” These are housing options that can house multiple families per building, such as apartments, townhomes, and duplexes. Such housing options are more affordable for moderate- and low-income renters. Communities like these are critical to ensuring everyone in each city can afford a safe and healthy home.

HDC Member Project: Bob & Marcia Almquist Place

This summer, Portland embraced this solution by passing the “Residential Infill Project,” which permits building new 1-4 homes on any residential lot in the city. As a bonus, if over half the homes are affordable, the limit increases to six per lot.

The Urbanist: Portland Passes Sweeping Zoning Reform

Denser communities will also significantly help King County’s carbon footprint. Building denser housing will help minimize sprawl, protecting and preserving the natural environment. Think: Building up, not out. Plus, less sprawl also leads to shorter commutes and decreased carbon emissions. Multi-family housing, like apartment buildings and -plexes, also reduce energy use as more people are living closer together and sharing amenities. Furthermore, dense communities share natural resources and municipal services, which helps reduce the city’s overall carbon impact.

Zoning and land use tools that can include more housing types will make for more sustainable neighborhoods with mixed incomes.

In Seattle, about 75% of residential land is exclusively zoned for single-family homes. Aside from ADU/DADUs, single-family zoning limits any type of new housing within these zones. This has hindered our climate goals. Lower density communities with single-use developments promote more traffic and longer commutes to jobs and shopping. In 2018, 64% of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation.

Seattle Commuters During Rush Hour

Mixed-use building is another way we can grow our communities while preserving our local environment. When you see apartments above retail or other services, that is an example of a mixed-use building. It is great for mixed-income levels as well. This is a great solution to the housing and climate crises because it is expanding existing buildings to make the most of that space and facilities. It also produces housing extremely close to retail, reducing the need to drive or hop on a bus, thus residents’ carbon footprint.

HDC Member Mixed-Use Project: Marion West Building

Fixing up abandoned buildings or converting them to residential building can provide housing for lower-income folks while utilizing already-used land.

By advocating for more inclusive housing, we are advocating for more inclusive and greener living. We know that density is not the only thing that needs to be done to solve our climate and affordable housing crisis, but it’s a large component. We must be advocating for sustainable and green solutions in lock step with increase affordability and density.

Take Action

We cannot wait another ten years to tackle climate change, environmental justice, and the housing affordability crisis. This week, Futurewise is hosting a Week of Action for the Washington Can’t Wait Campaign to fight for big changes to the Growth Management Act in three decades. Your support is critical in this effort! Take action by emailing your legislators here and share this opportunity on social media.

Vision 2050 will cover the transportation and planning projections within the King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, which will be a major game changer in the climate/housing conversation. On December 14, HDC is hosting a Learn at Lunch to discuss Vision 2050 and Countywide Planning Policies (CPPs). Register here to attend.