#HALA Part 2 (Super Exciting Time!)

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Washington in the Arlene's Flowers case. Not only did the Court rule that Arlene's violated Washington's Laws Against Discrimination by refusing public accommodation to a gay couple, but also the Court ruled that WLAD is Constitutional as written and applied. That has nothing to do with HALA, but some good stuff before I dive into the "L" section - Land Utilization Opportunities. 

For those reading at home: I'm starting today's piece on page 19.

L.1 - Prioritize Use of Public Property for Affordable Housing

Fun fact: the City (and State and County and Port) own a bunch of property. Which really, I guess, means that we own it. This recommendation encourages the city to lead (and encourage other government entities) on using surplus properties for affordable housing wherever feasible, and to use available proceeds from sales of unusable surplus properties to specifically fund construction and preservation of affordable homes. In addition, this recommendation specifically states that open space should also be a consideration (parks are, after all, the backyards of apartments and condos). By obtaining an inventory from all government entities of surplus properties, a coordinated effort to have more affordable housing built can happen, and we can preserve more public land for public benefit, rather than default selling to the highest bidder. 

L.2 Support Strategic Site Acquisition for Affordable Housing

Basically, this calls on the City to develop a strategy and funding for acquisition of properties specifically for affordable housing that are near transit hubs and light rail stations. After all, Light Rail should be for all income levels, not just the very wealthy. By acquiring land near stations, it can more readily be preserved for production of rent-restricted housing for low-income households that might not otherwise be able to afford to live in market-rate buildings near transit centers. 

And....that's it for the "L" section. General opposition to HALA means opposition to utilizing city-owned properties for affordable housing rather than selling to private developers for market-rate housing, and means opposing planning for site acquisition for affordable housing to be built near transit hubs. 

But this is too damn short, so on to "F"!

F.1 Provide Flexible Low Cost Loans

This has to do with some technical details around how the city provides loans for affordable housing construction and preservation, and also calls for allowing short- to medium-term financing to help with upfront equity investment needs. If I'm reading this right, this recommendation basically is all about allowing for more housing types to qualify for loans from the City for affordable housing production and preservation purposes. 

F.2 Develop a Credit Enhancement Program

I fell asleep reading this one, although it's a pretty dope idea. Basically using the City's credit rating to help secure loans for low-income development to decrease the cost of that development and maximize production and preservation of affordable homes. 

F.3 Explore Short-Term Lending

"Fund balances maintained across the City of Seattle could provide a modest resource for short-term lending at a low cost. The City of Seattle's Office of Housing currently has a program that authorizes use of certain fund balances for this type of activity, but the use of these funds is generally limited by the availability of take-out financing. In the event there is a rise in demand for short-term loans, the City should research and thoroughly understand the potential and limitations of this resource; for instance, the length of time such funds could be outstanding, the expected interest rates charged by different funds over time and the rough order of magnitude of fund balances that would be suitable for lending."

I have no idea what that means, but it sounds like it is recommending that the city, if the demand is there, study possibly expanding an existing program to allow for lending of fund balances for short-term loans, which I think means lending funds that are set-aside for something, but can't be used quite yet because the total amount isn't ready or the project isn't ready, similar to the revolving fund idea that was part of the most recent Housing Levy. Maybe? 

In sum - these five recommendations are part of HALA. Combined with the 10 discussed yesterday, we're at 15 recommendations that people who are adamantly opposed to HALA are adamantly opposed to. 

Of course, next up are the ones that I think most people think of when they think of HALA. Sections MF and SF. I'm also going to mix into this series a quick bit about the "L," and subjectivity around the term "Livability." Should be fun! 


The "L" Word