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Community Focus Groups Draw On Diversity To Figure Out How To Make Seattle More Affordable

City of Seattle
Focus Group participants record whether they agree or disagree with draft principles statements at a May meeting.

Some long-time neighborhood activists in Seattle are wondering if they still have an official voice. Last week the mayor said he would break ties with decades-old neighborhood councils because they don’t reflect the city’s diverse population.

Meanwhile, new voices are already chiming in. For the past few months, community focus groups have been meeting to discuss Seattle’s plan to make housing more affordable, known as HALA or Housing Affordability Livability Agenda.

Striving for equity, the city put out a call for volunteers in every neighborhood earlier this year. Jesseca Brand with Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods says mixing people from different neighborhoods and backgrounds is leading to a broader discussion. 

"We are finding that people are able to have a conversation in a way that sort of says, ‘Hey, Crown Hill, even though I’m in Beacon Hill, I may have more in common with you than I originally thought,'” said Jesseca Brand with Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods. 

Brand says meeting with focus groups is the city’s chance to ask, did we get HALA right? The answer is often nuanced.  Feedback includes things like - let’s think more about design – if we build density, let’s make sure daylight still shines through. In coming months, all this will become more visual as the city puts out renderings showing the new shape of the city.