October 2013 - By Brian Ross, 2013 MBA President
“To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you, he will.” - Ronald Reagan
Election Day is just around the corner, and with that comes a golden opportunity for each and every one of us to do something positive for housing.
All of the hype in the media surrounding Initiative 522 might lead one to believe that labeling of genetically engineered foods will be the only issue of note on the ballot. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a local election year, and there are many key races throughout King and Snohomish counties that could impact the climate for housing. At stake is our ability to counter increasing regulations on our industry that negatively impact housing affordability. Over the past several months, your Association’s Affordable Housing Council (AHC) has been hard at work interviewing candidates for local office and evaluating their positions on housing issues and how they line up with our industry. The result of this effort is a list of 62 AHC-endorsed local candidates, which you will find here. I strongly encourage all of our members to review the list and support these candidates.
County and local office holders have the ability to impact numerous aspects of the homebuilding industry. They decide everything from development codes and the application of impact fees to zoning laws, water and sewer regulations and design guidelines. These elected officials are also charged with drafting comprehensive plans and implementing many aspects of the Growth Management Act. The questions that county and local governments decide on a daily basis are the bread and butter issues for homebuilders in the Puget Sound area. In addition to the Seattle mayor’s race, which is a big one for our industry, the AHC has identified 10 mayors’ races that are critical for housing in our two counties, including the cities of Everett, Lynnwood, Auburn, Black Diamond, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Monroe, Mukilteo and Snoqualmie. Also on the endorsed candidates list are city and county council races, the King County Executive and Seattle Port Commission seats. Every local elected office truly does matter, and I invite you to review the AHC list and visit the candidates’ websites, so you can make an informed decision on behalf of housing.
There are multiple ways that members can support these housing-friendly candidates. The first, of course, is to vote. Off-year elections typically attract the lowest turnout of all types of general elections, even though they are typically the most weighted votes. That means that even relatively small blocks of voters in local off-year elections carry much more significance than they do in more high-profile races like the presidential election. Every vote truly does make a difference. In addition to voting in local elections, Association members can make a big difference in the outcome of important races by directly participating in individual campaigns. This could include making a financial contribution, putting up yard signs, asking your associates to vote for prohousing candidates or hosting fund-raisers for housing-friendly candidates running in your district. Your Association’s government affairs program continues to be a top priority for members. Over the past year, we have realized many key victories at the local level on behalf of affordable housing.
These include significant changes to the city of Renton’s alley requirements, the adoption of an ordinance in Snohomish County allowing the development of attached fee-simple townhouses in multifamily zones, as well as plat revision measures that add development flexibility. We have also successfully fought for more flexible State Environmental Policy Act code updates while battling fire sprinkler ordinances and proposed impact-fee hikes. These accomplishments would not be possible without support from elected officials who understand the importance of housing and who are willing to listen to us and vote to help housing.
I urge you to please do your part in helping to elect decision makers who support affordable housing and our industry. Your participation in this process can go a long way toward affecting the outcome of these critical races. Be sure to have your ballot postmarked by Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 5. I will end this President’s Message with something New York Times best-selling author Sharon Salzberg said: “Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country and the world.”