Final Assignment: Visiting Olympia

To begin with the final project, I started exploring the legislative website to find the bill which I was most interested in. Bill 1843: Creating a residential energy efficiency incentive pilot program was the one bill I was interested in since it was dealing with the new possible incentive pilot program for majorly single low-income housing owners and multi-housing owners who implement green building certification for their new buildings, and this is a perfect combination of sustainable development and landscape architecture, my major. I loved the fact that the bill tried to give advantages to multi-housing owners. So if the multi-housing owners with green certificate chose to make 20% of their units affordable units, they will get longer period of property tax exemption under this pilot program.

I tried to contact the sponsors, the representatives of this bill by emails, and, luckily, the state representative, Gael Tarleton’s legislative assistant, Edlira Kuka, responded back to my email. She apologized that Representative Gael Tarleton is just too busy at the time so the assistant, herself, can answer my questions related to the bill, since she was also very familiar with it. I gladly accepted that offer, and went to Olympia to talk to her and discuss what I felt about the particular bill. I printed the following letter, the proposal for some changes to the bill:

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To Representative Tarleton,
Comments from Youngsuk Jun (Master Student from University of Washington) related to Bill 1843:

As a student living near the University of Washington and a student studying landscape architecture, I am very glad and excited to see the great intention of this particular Bill 1843.I have to say that this kind of Bill truly fits the situation we are in at this point and what the city should aim for the future. There is just couple of opinions from the perspective of a graduate student living around the campus:

1. Offering 4~8 years of exemption of property tax levy for low-income single house owners is a great idea, and I am just wondering why not the same number of years for multi-housing owners who meet the green building certification requirements? I would consider, for example, giving 8 years of exemption of property tax levy as the baseline and give additional years if more than 40% of multi-housing is affordable.

2. The reason to push this multi-hosing idea in my opinion is that, as a student living near the U-District, and Seattle in general, the housing price is just too expensive overall. It is truly hard to find a single unit which costs less than $1000 dollars a month and that is just too much for a university student to afford. There are very good micro-housing units around the campus with affordable pricing around $700 dollars a month; however, there simply are not enough number of them. I believe that encouraging more affordable housings is great for the future of the city because Seattle’s young population is steadily increasing and affordable housing will be needed for those age groups and young professionals.

3. Great to push the idea of green-building certification for new buildings; however, I do not know the feasibility of the net-zero buildings at this point. I just know that it is very difficult to build any building at this point to make buildings net-zero because of the price and the technology is just not there yet. I know Bullitt Center in Capitol Hill is Living Building Net-zero certified, but also know that to pay off all the cost to build such building will take too long and is just not cost efficient at this point. So maybe net-zero requirements for multi-housing units of affordable units is just too much at this point and needed some adjustment.

These are some comments I have. Like I mentioned previously, I think this is a great Bill to push forward. Thank you so much for your time, and I hope this Bill could make a big change for the city in the near future.

Sincerely,

Youngsuk Jun
University of Washington
3rd Year Graduate Student
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The assistant was very kind and we spent about half an hour to discuss about this bill. Unfortunately, the day (March 12th) before I went to see her, the bill died and they have to wait until the next year to retry. After hearing my suggestions above, she told me that it is great to hear from a university student’s and resident’s view and she also found that it is almost unfair to live in that area because the current housing rental laws are just too disadvantageous for the students. For example, it is legal to raise their rents by 100 dollars and just give 30 day notice then a lot of students have no choice but to move out. She also said that my argument of the relationship between affordable housings and net-zero energy buildings is very new point of view and she should look more into that.
So I asked her to show my proposal letter to Representative Tareton. She told me to contact her if I have more questions and she will definitely let Rep. Tareton know about the conversation and the letter.

Overall, it was a great experience to see and feel the atmosphere of Olympia and be a small part of the bill. Everyone I talked to was very nice and friendly, and I would highly recommend anyone to be a part of this process.

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