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'Frozen out': Britain's shockingly unaffordable housing market

LONDON — Tom Walters’ story is a familiar one to Britons: The young father earns slightly more than the national average, but he stands little chance of buying a home for his family any time soon because of the country's unaffordable housing market. Walters, 32, lives in the picturesque city of Chichester in southeastern England with his wife, Michelle, a teacher, and their 18-month-old son, Archie. He works as a communication manager at a university about 30 miles away, near Brighton, where he makes more than the average $35,000 each year. Michelle Walters had to switch to working part-time as a teacher, because of the high costs…
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City Waterfront Plan Criticized for Unfriendly Pedestrian Design

Last week brought new challenges to the key components of the city's ongoing plans for a waterfront rebuild. Three neighboring associations filed appeals questioning the adequacy of the city's impact analysis, or EIS, for reconstructing Alaskan Way and building a new promenade and overlook walk. The main bone of contention? That the city plans to install a seven to eight-lane highway spanning four blocks of the project that was meant to reconnect Seattleites to the waterfront. On the Southbound side to the west, adjacent to the water, the configuration includes one transit lane and two general purpose lanes. On the…
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U.S. Rep. DelBene Challenges Trump, State Rep. Frame Challenges State Democrats

1. U.S. representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) is co-sponsoring a bill called the “No Religious Registry Act” that would prohibit the government from setting up a registry that would classify people based on religion. President-elect Donald Trump has talked[1] about putting Muslims in a registry[2]. A batch of Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill with DelBene, including civil rights legend U.S. representative John Lewis (D-GA), the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S. Congress and now DNC chair hopeful Keith Ellison (D-MN), plus Jewish U.S. representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), and arguably most significantly and symbolically, U.S.…
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Defying SDOT, Council Puts Parking Benefit District Back in Play

1. The city council included an extra $150,000 for the Seattle Department of Transportation during this week’s big committee vote on Wednesday to approve next year’s budget. But SDOT may not be happy about the new money. The $150,000 budget proviso directs SDOT to set up a “parking benefit district” pilot project. You may remember that SDOT director Scott Kubly and the mayor’s office had come out against the idea earlier this year. A parking benefit district, initially one of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda’s (HALA) recommendations, was enthusiastically supported by Capitol Hill Housing, the low-income housing group that’s…
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Chamber Memo Foreshadows Legal Showdown Over Workplace Rights Fund

Affordable Housing 1. Eclipsing the city council budget committee vote yesterday to approve the $1.2 billion city budget general fund, the council made a $29 million amendment. With a 7-2 vote the council approved using $29 million in city bonding capacity for affordable housing; only budget committee chair council member Tim Burgess and council member Debora Juarez voted no. The mayor’s office, noting the $54 million the mayor had already put in the budget for affordable housing, plus the overall $290 million housing levy, and his mandatory inclusionary zoning plan to make developers pay for affordable housing whenever they build…
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Mayor's Lead Pot Policy Staffer Pressures Pot Industry to Attend Murray Reelection Fundraiser

1. Mayor Ed Murray’s point person on marijuana legalization, David Mendoza from Murray’s office of policy and innovation[1], sent an ethically questionable email to people in the city’s emerging pot industry. City ethics code prohibits city officials and employees from campaigning from city hall and/or using their city position to campaign. For example, a city council member or staffer can’t use city hall resources like city hall’s email servers to invite people to a campaign fundraiser. Mendoza sent an email titled “Mayor’s Campaign Kickoff – Cannabis Industry Table”— to 20-plus pot industry people (CEO@cannabiscity and Jody@thegoodship, for example); the email…
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Friday LIKES and DISLIKES: Airbnb, Parking Requirements, and Waterfront Redesign

1. Seattleites (and particularly Millennials) LIKE Airbnb, according to polling of Seattle voters done by David Binder Research and released by Airbnb this week. The city council, thinking they’d hit on a populist issue, recently stepped in to regulate the sharing economy trend[1], but have put the legislation on hold to reevaluate. And (if these polling numbers are close to accurate), it’s no wonder. Some of the stats: Nearly 80 percent of voters support letting people rent out their homes on Airbnb—79 to 14. Meanwhile 55 percent of voters think Airbnb is “good for the city” because it provides an…
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Council to Amend Homeless Encampment Bill by Defining More Spots as Unsuitable

The city council’s human services committee met yesterday to outline some “substantive changes” to the so-called ACLU bill that was proposed several weeks ago[1]. The bill, by putting stricter timing and outreach prerequisites on the city, would curtail the city’s ability to sweep unauthorized homeless encampments. Confronted with thousands of emails from constituents and outright opposition to the bill from the mayor’s office over the charge that the legislation would create a de facto right for homeless people to camp anywhere in the city, the proposed changes, supported by the council's progressive bloc, attempt to clarify public places that are…
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Planning While Black: Keynote Speaker at City Planning Conference Expands Definition of Placemaking

1. I’m currently submerged in the Designing Cities conference, an annual conference that’s put on by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO.) This year’s conference is in Seattle, one of the 52 member cities in an organization of DOTS (transportation departments) around the world that have been coming together since 2012 to strategize on the multimodal, ped-friendly, green cities agenda. Yesterday’s lunch keynote speaker, Tamika Butler, the executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, sought to expand the brains of the predominantly white city planning world with a more comprehensive definition for fostering safe public spaces;…
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Murray May Go with First Veto if Council Passes Encampment Legislation

Based on two new reports (here[1] and here[2]) which describe a failed approach to dealing with homelessness, mayor Ed Murray announced a shift in tactics yesterday. The new emphasis to fight homelessness will prioritize “Rapid Rehousing” for people that are literally on the street and homeless versus—as we currently do—spend a disproportionate amount on “Transitional Housing,” which doesn’t exclusively serve people who are literally homeless, though they may be on the brink. Rapid Rehousing programs provide permanent rooms for people. Transitional Housing programs place people in permanent housing after six months to two years of temporary housing and social service…
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