Mayor Murray Unveils Affordable Housing Proposal for Chinatown-International District

Mayor Murray signs legislation to implement affordable housing requirements in the Chinatown-International District.

Mayor Ed Murray has sent legislation to City Council that will require new development in the Chinatown-International District to contribute to affordable housing, producing at least 150 new affordable homes over the next decade. The zoning change will implement the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda’s (HALA) Mandatory Housing Affordably (MHA) requirements.

“Growth has brought thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in investments to Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “But while we are the envy of many cities, we need to ensure this growth doesn’t push out the very communities that define our character. The Chinatown-International District is one these defining communities, where you can find dozens of languages, cultural amenities, transit, markets, and history all on the same street corner. By working with the community, and communities across the city, we are requiring developers to build or fund affordable housing for the first time, and helping to keep our neighborhoods places where anyone can live. Affordability is key to ensure that the Chinatown-International District remains the cultural landmark it is today and for generations to come.”

“The Yesler Community Collaborative is pleased to support the implementation of Mandatory Housing Affordability in the Chinatown-International District, Little Saigon and the Central Area,” said Doris Koo, a community leader and executive director of the Yesler Community Collaborative. “This step comes after the City’s responsiveness to our request that MHA requirements reflect the high risk of displacement our neighborhoods are experiencing. We urge Council to pass the legislation swiftly in support of inclusive developments in our communities.”

Seattle’s MHA program requires multi-family residential and commercial development to either include a set percentage of rent-restricted homes for low-income families or make a payment to the Office of Housing to support affordable housing. For these neighborhoods, the requirements would be to set aside 7 percent of homes as rent restricted or pay $20.75 per square foot for residential buildings, and between 5 percent and 8 percent of floor area or $8 and $20.75 per square foot for commercial buildings. These payments will go towards the production of affordable homes across the city.

The cost of a rent-restricted two-bedroom apartment for a family of three earning about $49,000 would be $1,219.

The increase in development capacity needed to implement these MHA requirements is an additional one or two stories for most areas included in these proposals. For areas of the Chinatown-International District already zoned for residential high-rises, buildings could be an additional three stories taller.

“Our neighborhood was upzoned several years ago,” said Maiko Winkler-Chin, Executive Director of the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation Development Authority. “During those conversations, we discussed the desire of having a mixed income residential neighborhood – it would be a positive outcome with the changes we knew would come. MHA is one tool that helps provide a continuum of homes for people who want to be in this neighborhood.”

The Chinatown-International District National Historic District, along Jackson, King and Weller streets, is excluded from this proposal due to the National Historic Registry designation and unique character of the area. A map of the Chinatown- International District proposal is available here.

Mayor Murray made the announcement as he signed legislation that implements MHA requirements in Downtown and South Lake Union that will result in an estimated 2,100 additional affordable homes over the next decade. These announcements highlight the City’s progress under HALA in creating 50,000 new homes over the next decade, with 20,000 of those units set at affordable rates.

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