[The Fair Housing part of comments I submitted on Fort Lawton redevelopment in Seattle]
- In the strongest possible terms we urge city staff, the Mayor, and Council to build a plan that fully embraces the City’s obligations to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) under the Fair Housing Act.
This includes “taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics” and “taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns.” (2)
Recommendations for local governments include assessing “Contributing Factors of Segregation,” including “Land use and zoning laws,” “Location and types of affordable housing,” and “Community opposition.” Access to “low poverty neighborhoods,” “environmentally healthy neighborhoods,” and “Patterns in disparities in access to opportunity” are recommended considerations. (3)
We believe failure to include substantial amounts of affordable housing onsite at Fort Lawton would be a shocking abdication of AFFH and contrary to the City’s commitment to racial and social justice:
(A) The Fort Lawton site sits around and about West Lawton Street, Texas Way, and 36th Avenue West. This area sits in the Magnolia neighborhood. This area sits in Census Tract 57. (4)
(B) This area is designated by the City as a “higher access to opportunity, lower risk of displacement” area. This area may be described as a “high opportunity area.” (5)
(C) This area is more than 500 meters from a freeway or comparable high-traffic road, the scientific consensus threshold for significantly less exposure to harmful traffic-related pollutants; thus, this area may be called a “healthful area” relative to many other areas of the city. (6)
(D) The percentage of people below the poverty line in Seattle according to 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates is 13%. In Census Tract 57 it is 3.4%. This difference is outside the sampling margin of error; thus, this area may be described a “low poverty area.” (7)
(E) City-wide median annual household income according to 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates is $75,458. In Census Tract 57 it is $102,760. This difference is outside the sampling margin of error. This area may be described as a “high-income” area. (7)
(F) The percentage of White (one race) persons in Seattle according to 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates is 69%. In Census Tract 57 it is 83%. This is outside the sampling margin of error. This area may be described as a “white” area. (7)
(G) By visual scan of the City’s zoning maps, Census Tract 57 appears to be overwhelmingly zoned Single Family 5,000 (or single-family larger lot). (8) The percentage of 1-unit detached homes in Seattle according to 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates is 43%. In Census Tract 57 it is 69%. This difference is outside the sampling margin of error. (7) This area may be described as one with a greater percentage of residential land with exclusionary zoning.
(H) According to the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, the Magnolia neighborhood has a documented history of racially restrictive covenants. (9)
(I) According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “[a]n assessment of Fair Housing would evaluate any barriers that arise from zoning policy.” (10) “Impediments to fair housing choice” include “[c]ommunity resistance when minorities, persons with disabilities, and/or low-income persons first move into white and/or moderate- to high-income areas.” (11)
(J) The city-wide percentage of Black or African-American alone persons in Seattle according to 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates is 7.1%. In Census Tract 57 it is 0.8%. This underrepresentation of African-Americans in a white, high income, high access to opportunity, low poverty, healthful area is outside the sampling margin of error. (7)
(K) According to the 2015 American Housing Survey (AHS), in the Seattle Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) area the following groups are significantly less likely to live in 1 unit detached homes than white alone households: Hispanic households; Black households; immigrants who arrived after 2005. (7)
(L) According to the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) the following groups have a significantly lower median income than that of Census Tract 57: Hispanic households; Black households. (7)
(M) Comments in the public record appear to express explicit or implied animus toward low income people, a preference to exclude non-affluent people from affluent areas, hostility toward persons with addiction or mental illness, or negative racial and socio-economic stereotypes (see appendix for a representative, not exhaustive list). (13)
(N) We urge the City to assess public input from the area as potential evidence of “community opposition” and “community resistance” to free and open access to housing by low income persons and members of protected classes in this high-opportunity, healthful, low poverty, high-income, white, exclusionary zoned, historically intentionally segregated areas. We urge the City to treat such opposition and resistance as positive evidence for including low-income housing on site at Fort Lawton to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing in the face of social or other pressure that may prevent it from occurring otherwise in the area.
Thank you for your consideration. Please make the most of this rare opportunity to help people in urgent need now and to remediate an as yet un-remediated history of exclusion.
Appendix: Selected comments on Fort Lawton (13)
Creating a homeless or subsidized low income area in the middle of an affluent neighborhood just doesn’t make sense.
What’s the research on Projects [sic] built abutting affluent areas—there probably is none, because the idea is so bad.
The homeless and low income folks should be served on the outskirts of the city, where property values are lower and there can be access to neighborhood services. Please don’t waste this valuable resource.
Under Alternative 1, what guarantees would I and my neighbors have that the very character of our safe, family-centered neighborhood would not change for the worse?
I have concerns about potential increased crime, creating safety issues for our kids, noise, disturbance of our properties, and lack of integration with the existing community.
There are many, many seniors, families with children and all of us who would be put at serious risk with the mentally ill free to roam our beautiful parks and streets. We buy here for a reason and I think you should support a comfortable and safe place for your citizens to live.