Yes in My Backyard! North Seattle Group Advocates for Affordable Housing Development
By M.A. Leonard
“This is a family-centered neighborhood, and we believe in affordable housing.”
Welcoming change requires courage. Typically, public hearings about new housing are contentious and fraught with concern. Recent community meetings hosted by the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association (RNA) aim instead to shape change and reflect Seattle’s aspirational values of inclusivity. Talk is centered on planning and development to welcome new residents, businesses and community centers.
For more than 20 years, RNA has empowered residents around neighborhood issues, and during the last four months, the nonprofit has worked with North Seattle stakeholders, planning consultants and designers to ensure equitable, inclusive development on property near Sound Transit’s expanding light rail, which is slated to arrive in Roosevelt in 2021.
Before the trains themselves arrive, Sound Transit will make available 53,000 square feet of land adjacent to the station as a transit-oriented development (TOD) project. Sound Transit will issue a request for proposals in 2017 to evaluate potential TOD options and qualifications of proposing teams. The Roosevelt Neighborhood Association is working with Sound Transit and the City of Seattle to shape priorities for the TOD.
To support RNA’s critical work, Enterprise awarded $40,000 in a Section 4 grant to underwrite the research and planning for development on this Sound Transit surplus site. Based upon the premise that a person's potential can be unfairly dictated by their neighborhood, RNA’s goal is to build an equitable community with high-quality public amenities affordable to low-income families and people of color. Their approach aligns with Enterprise’s mission to provide well-designed, affordable homes connected to resources like exceptional schools, good jobs, health care, and transit.
“With Enterprise’s support, we are able to gather comments from a representation of current residents, and to consider the needs of future residents so that the entire community is reflected in this report,” Lazerwitz noted.
Affordable homes are desperately needed in the area. Only 11 percent of rental homes are affordable to households earning 50 percent of area median income. Roosevelt has less availability of affordable housing than the regional average for transit communities and the regional level of need for that income bracket.
During a community meeting in February, one Roosevelt neighbor implored the crowd, "We should welcome affordable housing in Roosevelt because we have excellent schools, and we can change families' lives."
With a consensus coming together for substantial affordable housing to be built at Sound Transit’s Roosevelt site, they will help create this change.