Seattle Council Committee approves housing affordability program

The Seattle City Council’s Planning, Land Use & Zoning committee unanimously (5-0) approved framework legislation last week that would require that residential developers provide for affordable housing by either including it in their development or paying into a fund used to support the development of affordable housing in Seattle.

The requirement will apply after Council adopts future zoning changes, scheduled for Council consideration at the end of 2016/early 2017.

“This program is one of the most ambitious efforts Seattle has ever undertaken to address our growing need for affordable housing in our city,” says Councilmember Rob Johnson.

Under the program, if residential developers create rental housing, a select number of units must be made affordable to households earning up to 60% of Area Median Income (AMI), or $43,380 annually for a 2-person household.

If developers to create housing for homeownership, a select number of units must be made affordable to households earning up to 80% of AMI, or $55,450 annually for a 2-person household.

The number of required affordable units would be established by future legislation, as would the required amount of funds to be alternatively paid into an affordable housing development fund.

The Committee also adopted a series of amendments, including prioritizing that projects using the affordable housing development fund are developed near the projects that paid into the fund; that housing units be kept affordable for a term of 75 years; that when an affordable rental unit is converted to an ownership unit, the existing tenant has a right of first offer; and that accountability requirements be imposed to ensure that projects remain affordable.

“Our amendment creates consistency between our anti-displacement efforts and commits to exploring how we can use the Mandatory Affordable Housing framework to help ensure that the communities in our city most threatened by displacement can stay and thrive in place,” says Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

The Mandatory Affordable Housing – Residential (MHA-R) legislation is a key component of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA), which is a multi-faceted policy agenda intended to create 20,000 affordable units over the next 10 years.

The Full Council is scheduled to consider the Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation at its 2 p.m. meeting on Monday,  August 15.

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