Share Your Thoughts on Housing Affordability Proposals

Housing affordability continues to be on many people’s minds as we see headline after headline about rising home prices, rising rents, and an increase in our homeless population. While we see many things in our community changing, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to each other and to rolling up our sleeves and solving these big issues.

That is why in August of this year we voted overwhelmingly to renew the Seattle Housing Levy. Sustaining programs that provide home ownership opportunities and creating more housing for those most in need is a top priority. What we also know is that the Seattle Housing Levy, while a great tool, cannot do all that is needed to address the growing need for more affordable housing.

The City of Seattle has been hard at work passing tenant protections, removing barriers to housing for vulnerable populations, and working in coalitions in Olympia to change state law and provide more funding.  You can check all that out at Seattle.gov/HALA.

What we want to talk about today is our Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program, which we have spent much of the year drafting for City Council’s review and passage. This new program will, for the first time in our City’s history, require new development in Seattle’s most dense areas to contribute to affordable housing. This contribution is based on the City providing more capacity (allowing buildings to be taller or wider) in exchange for a developer to either build new affordable units or pay a fee to the Office of Housing (the same stewards of our Housing Levy dollars).

We are about halfway through the process of putting this program to work. We recently passed legislation that allows this program to exist in any area of the city where we make zoning changes. The next step is to actually make the zoning changes, and the City recently released a set of proposed zoning maps that targets these changes in our most dense areas of the city. These mapped proposals have been shaped by a nearly year-long community engagement process in which residents were asked how they would like to see their neighborhoods change. From that process, we developed a set of principles to guide the design of zoning changes.

We understand that zoning is one of the more complex tools used to harness the growth in Seattle, so we created this video to help guide you through using the maps.

Review the proposed zoning maps and tell us what’s working and what isn’t.

Your feedback will help the City find appropriate ways to increase the amount of both affordable AND market rate housing in our growth areas.

Hundreds of Comments on the Seattle 2035 Draft Plan

Thank you Seattle for offering over 2,100 comments, opinions, letters, and surveys about the Seattle 2035 Draft Comprehensive Plan. Staff is now organizing and reviewing your feedback. We will post verbatim comments and summaries at 2035.seattle.gov in the coming month.  

The Draft Plan went live for public review in July 2015. We received online comments on the plan throughout the summer and fall. In October and November, DPD organized five citywide community open houses in Capitol Hill, Ballard, Othello, the West Seattle Junction and at the North Seattle College. Over 400 people attended the meetings, browsed displays, posed questions to city staff and listened to a presentation. Displays included an overview of the Plan, description of 10 Key Proposals, plus information about the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). Up to 18 city staff attended each event to answer questions, listen and document comments on large easel pads.

Although the comment period on the Draft Plan is now closed, the conversation with the community will continue next year after City Council receives the Mayor’s Final Plan, and as community meetings about urban village boundaries and HALA begin. Look for the release of the Mayor’s Plan, Final EIS, and Final Equity Analysis in March 2016.

Housing Affordability: The Road Forward

Mayor Murray released his Roadmap to an Affordable and Livable City on July 13. The Roadmap provides an action plan to reach his goal of 50,000 new homes, including 20,000 net new income- and rent-restricted homes for households with incomes throughout the low-income spectrum (≤ 30% AMI, ≤ 60% AMI, ≤ 80% AMI), over the next decade.

Today, about 45,000 households in Seattle spend more than half their incomes on housing costs. An estimated 2,800 people sleep outside each night in Seattle. In response to this crisis, in September 2014, City Council and the Mayor convened the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee, comprised of both renters and homeowners with expertise in local housing issues, and for-profit and non-profit housing developers. The Mayor’s action plan is a response to the 65 recommendations by the HALA Committee, completed after 10 months of study and consensus building in response to the Mayor’s directive for a bold, visionary approach to Seattle’s housing affordability crisis.

“As Seattle expands and experiences rapid economic growth, more people are chasing a limited supply of housing. We are facing our worst housing affordability crisis in decades,” said Mayor Ed Murray upon release of the Advisory Committee recommendations and his Roadmap to an Affordable and Livable City. “My vision is a city where people who work in Seattle can afford to live here. Housing affordability is just one building block to a more equitable city. It goes hand in hand with our efforts on raising the minimum wage, providing preschool education for low-income children, and increasing access to parks and transit. We all share a responsibility in making Seattle affordable. Together, this plan will take us there.”

The following are the four key policy and program areas of the Mayor’s action plan:

  1. Invest in housing for those most in need
  2. Create new and affordable housing for all Seattleites
  3. Prevent displacement and foster equitable communities
  4. Promote efficient and innovative development

The action agenda aims to triple annual affordable housing production in Seattle. A key element of that goal would be new requirements that affordable housing be included in residential developments (Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) or mitigation of affordable housing impacts of commercial development be provided through payments (Commercial Linkage Fee) in multifamily residential, mixed-use and commercial zones throughout the city. The development capacity would be marginally increased in those zones but the affordable housing requirements would be mandatory regardless of how much development capacity is used. The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and the Commercial Linkage Fee could lead to the construction of at least 6,000 new affordable homes over 10 years.

Other HALA priorities for public input, planning and implementation include:

  • Increase opportunities for multifamily housing
  • Increase access, affordability, and diversity of housing options in areas near frequent transit service
  • Strengthen the tenant relocation assistance ordinance (TRAO)
  • Streamline city codes and permitting processes
  • Reform design review and historic review
  • Reform parking policies

Some items in the action plan could be implemented this year, while others will require at least two years to implement.

For more information, contact:

Geoff Wentlandt
(206) 684-3586
geoffrey.wentlandt@seattle.gov

Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Update

Last fall, Mayor Murray and City Council called together a twenty-eight member stakeholder committee to help develop a bold agenda for increasing housing affordability and livability in our city. The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Committee is now up and running, and will deliver a set of recommended actions to the Mayor and Council by the end of May, 2015.

To date the HALA has held three community meetings in locations throughout the city to hear from residents. They are continuing to gather community input through the Mayor’s website.  The HALA Committee has met four times, and has established a series of strategy work groups.  In addition to the twenty-eight community members on the HALA Committee, the work groups engage more than fifty other subject matter experts and community representatives from around the city to help develop specific strategies. Participants include architects, builders, neighborhood leaders, and financiers. The seven strategy areas are: financing, new affordable housing resources, zoning and housing types, construction costs and timelines, tenant access/protections, housing preservation, and sustainable homeownership. Each group will develop detailed actions that could be implemented to help move the needle on making housing more affordable. These strategies will be reviewed and prioritized by the HALA Committee in early spring.

For more information on HALA, to review meeting materials, or to view a wealth of data about housing, please visit Mayor Murray’s webpage at  http://murray.seattle.gov/housing/#sthash.Y8HciqXX.dpbs

Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Update

Mayor Murray and members of the City Council have called together leaders in our community to help develop a bold agenda for increasing the affordability and availability of housing in our city. The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda will chart a course for the next 10 years to ensure the development and preservation of a diversity of housing for people across the income spectrum.

A 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee is charged with evaluating potential housing strategies and delivering a set of recommendations to the Mayor and Council by May 29, 2015. The committee is co-chaired by Faith Li Pettis of Pacifica Law Group and philanthropic-sector leader David Wertheimer, and includes renters and homeowners, for-profit and non-profit developers, and other local housing experts. DPD and Office of Housing staff are working closely with Mayor Murray’s office to support the work of the committee.

Public engagement is an important part of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. In November, we held two public open houses to gather information from residents about their housing needs. The first meeting was November 19 at the Ethiopian Community Center in Southeast Seattle and the second was at Garfield Community Center in the Central District on November 20. There will be one more community meeting on December 4 at Olympic View Elementary in Northgate, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. At the meetings, City staff and committee members have a chance to talk with a broad range of residents to get ideas on how to address the affordability challenge, and to hear personal stories about housing needs. There will be many more opportunities for public involvement between now and May, including online surveys, more community meetings, and City Council briefings.

The full 28 member Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory committee convened for the first time on November 4, 2014. They heard an introduction from Mayor Murray, then discussed the purpose and goals for the Agenda, and received a background data briefing. At a second advisory meeting scheduled for December 11, 2014, the committee will discuss setting up a series of small working groups to address specific topics such as housing types, financing tools, and tenant protections. As we move into 2015, City staff and the advisory committee are looking forward to analyzing a set of specific housing actions that can ultimately create more affordable housing in Seattle.

For more information, visit the Mayor’s website at http://murray.seattle.gov/housing/#sthash.R9KJIf6a.dpbs.