It’s a boom time for Jet City; but not everyone is booming. One of the nation’s top five fastest-growing cities and home to a rapidly expanding tech sector, too many Seattle residents are buckling under soaring housing prices.
Stakeholders from many communities are seeking solutions, wondering both how to leverage unprecedented prosperity to make sure the opportunities and promise of the city are accessible to people of all incomes and also how to protect the things Seattleites love about their communities. Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) is a set of proposals intended to address these questions, but several of its 65 recommendations are controversial.
To better understand the range of viewpoints, actors, and narratives shaping this conversation, Sightline Institute analyzed mainstream news media coverage of HALA. We asked: What are the dominant narratives? What are missed opportunities? And who is (or who is not) defining the debate?
Our observations yielded a number of recommendations for communicators committed to fair, equitable, and effective housing affordability solutions for Seattle.
In general, we recommend HALA messengers:
- Shift from crisis and conflict messages to a focus on people, a shared community challenge, and a unified vision for the city, including a commitment to racial and income diversity and expanded access to opportunity in all neighborhoods;
- Address anxiety and experiences of displacement with empathy and proactive solutions;
- Paint vivid pictures of shared benefits and community opportunities, including thriving business districts, walkable neighborhoods, access for people of all incomes to transit, parks, open space, community events, cultural activities, recreation, restaurants, and services;
- Avoid supply and demand language; opt instead for messages that describe the housing shortage, such as building enough homes and plenty of housing; and a range of housing choices;
- Show how policy solutions help Seattle take control and leverage this historic growth and prosperity to make sure there are plenty of housing choices across the city; and
- Elevate diverse messengers and perspectives, including, in particular, the voices of renters, people of color, and low-wage workers.