Earthquake retrofits or affordable rent? Some Seattleites may have to choose | KUOW News and Information

Earthquake retrofits or affordable rent? Some Seattleites may have to choose

Oct 11, 2017

Hundreds of old brick buildings in Seattle are at risk of collapsing during a major earthquake – that’s clear.

Also clear: These structures are often in neighborhoods with high risk for displacement – affecting people of color and low-income households.

A special committee told the City Council this week that it should require retrofits of all of those buildings.

The problem is the cost: Roughly $1 billion.

Nathan Torgelson, director of the Department of Construction and Inspections, said people could be priced out if rents increase to cover the cost.

"Should we have mandatory retrofits requirements for these buildings, which could lead to displacement of tenants and residents?” he said. “We don't want that, but by the same token it's not if but when we have our next major earthquake event, all these buildings could be gone."

The city has flagged 1,100 unreinforced masonry buildings. You can check city estimates of the risk in this list (also see below), which groups them by neighborhood:

City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez said this will be a complex policy to write.

"If we do nothing there are disproportionate impacts, if we do something there are disproportionate impacts,” she said. “That is not a comfortable place to live in, in terms of trying to make a policy decision here."

The council isn't expected to decide what to do until long after a new mayor is sworn in this fall.

: