An opinion piece by Port CEO Tay Yoshitani in Tuesday's PI sums up their reasoning succinctly.
- Burien fought the third runway tooth and nail, and in the course of things agreements were made. If the Port does not honor these, they will lose credibility.
- Seattle has an affordable housing problem and a condo conversion issue, but Burien does not. Most housing in Burien is affordable. This is not their problem.
- An agreement is an agreement. A contract is a contract.
Seattle Housing Authority CEO Tom Tierney has also called upon the Port to preserve the units, but has also said that should they decide otherwise, they should take responsibility for the lost housing and rebuild elsewhere.
The Lutheran Public Policy Office sent out an alert that articulated this position a bit more fully:
Although LPPO has consistently advocated for the preservation of the Lora Lake apartments, political realities have made this option difficult to work out. Instead, LPPO and many others working on this issue are in favor of a $30 million package funded jointly by the Port, King County, and the King County Housing authority which would fund the building of replacement units for the 162 units of affordable housing which would disappear with the demolition of Lora Lake.This position has been challenged by some, who point out the obvious: Were we to spend $30 million on housing AND keep the apartments, we'd be getting ahead and not just staying even. Who wants to spend $30 million to stay even?
It's been suggested that the strategy here is to offer the Port an alternative that is so unattractive, it makes reneging on Burien look great by comparison. Clever.
Too bad it won't work.
Lora Lake has shown us that Ten Year Plan targets for housing development can't end homelessness if we're losing units on the other end. The visual of perfectly good housing being torn down to make way for a big box retailer makes for great symbolism, and Burien and the Port Authority are, for politicians in Seattle, relatively safe targets.
Sooner or later, however, Lora Lake will be behind us, and we'll still have the same issue to contend with. And we'll have to face that the real problems, and the real targets, are right here in Seattle. Developers are making a killing at the expense of affordability, and our corporate liberal political class is, for the most part, too weak-kneed to get in their way.
Some real hardball has been played against the Port Authority and Burien to preserve this housing, but the 162 units in Burien are a drop in the bucket to the 3000 or so units lost locally to condo conversion.
House Speaker Frank Chopp, who allowed a condo conversion bill to die in committee last spring, has pledged his support for addressing this during next year's legislative session. We need to marshal the outrage we've mustered over events in Burien to ensure that this legislation offers a meaningful market intervention, and doesn't just settle for some relocation assistance that masquerades as a victory while the core problem remains untouched.