Tlingit totem pole in Pioneer Square
Tlingit totem pole in Pioneer Square

Is help on the way?

There is a bill quietly working its way through the state legislature that would provide significant funds for Historic South Downtown (HSD) to continue and extend its work to improve the safety and economic welfare of Pioneer Square and the International District.

House Bill 1223 proposes providing affordable housing developers access to revenues that won’t be available until 2021 to acquire real estate at today’s market value. Affordable housing advocates argued persuasively that the cost of real estate in 2021 will be much higher than the costs today and failure to act on this opportunity will actually make constructing affordable housing, especially at transit hubs, much more difficult and expensive. Hard to argue with that!

The bill gives housing the authority to back a capital bond of $45 million.

Included in the bill is a 10% carve-out for Community Preservation and Development Authorities to mitigate the adverse impact of public facilities on the surrounding neighborhood(s).

So let’s unpack that. The only Community Preservation and Development Authority in the state is Historic South Downtown. It was established in the legislature in 2007 specifically to address the impact of Safeco and Century Link Fields on Pioneer Square and the ID.

HB1223 is making progress in Olympia. It has had two hearings, one in the Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee and the other in the House Finance Committee. Both Committees have given the bill a “do-pass” recommendation and it has now moved to House Rules Committee, which will determine in the next few weeks whether to advance the bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.

There is still a long way to go. If it passes in the House, it has to also make it through the Senate.

HSD just wanted you to know that the plight of our neighborhoods has not gone unnoticed. If this bill passes, help is on the way.