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Seattle's Yesler Terrace Low-Income Housing Plan Advances

Derek Wang

Seattle lawmakers want to adjust the plan to redevelop the Yesler Terrace low–income housing development and it could affect the 1,200 people who live there. A City Council committee Thursday called for some changes.


Yesler Terrace is 70 years old and its sewage and water systems have been deteriorating. The development's owner, the Seattle Housing Authority, wants to rebuild the low–income housing units, but its plan is controversial.

The agency wants to sell a portion of the property to a private developer, with the goal of turning it into market rate apartments and office towers. Money from the sale would be used to replace the existing low–income housing. Critics of the deal have said the plan is financially risky and question whether the existing low–income housing would remain in the area.

Now a City Council committee is proposing some changes. Among other things, it wants the Housing Authority to consider leasing the land instead of selling it. And it wants to put some rules on how the money would be spent.

Nick Licata is a vice–chair of the council's Yesler Terrace committee.

Licata: "Any money that they receive from the lease or sale of properties have to go back to developing Yesler Terrace. And if they were to spend the money on something else, they would have to get council permission"

Licata says he's also concerned about current residents being displaced during construction. He says he's asking the agency to not displace families for more than a year.

But to some advocates of low–income housing, the plan is still flawed. It calls for $7.6 million from the Seattle housing levy. And housing advocates say that money should not be given to the Housing Authority to fix up existing low–income housing. They say it should be used for new developments.

Fox: "It's like giving them free reign for use of our voter–approved housing levy and other existing sources that we need to expand the stock. We're just giving away the money."

That's John Fox, coordinator of the Seattle Displacement Coalition.

Back at City Hall, Councilman Nick Licata says he understands that concern. In fact he says he has similar worries. Still he says he voted in favor of the legislation, in order to move the plan forward.

Licata: "It's easy to vote 'no' and not make any progress. So, I was able to, I think, get the best I could get for the plan as it is. Once you say the plan is no good, I just can't support it; I'll feel good voting 'no' for it, but then I won't have much influence on changing the plan."

The full City Council is expected to vote on the new plan on September 4.

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