As the Seattle economy booms and the city’s population increases rapidly, officials are confronted by an unprecedented housing affordability crisis.
In order to remedy this emerging issue, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has reconvened a committee of affordability advocates from across the city. The group, known as Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA), recently released its highly anticipated list of recommendations to help combat this issue.
The proposed goal was to create 20,000 low rent homes or income-based housing along with 30,000 additional new market rate homes within the next decade. Most importantly, these homes would be built in desirable neighborhoods with quick commutes to the center of Seattle.
Throughout the past 10 months, HALA has worked to develop a strategic plan that provides more housing, resources and support to those who need it most.
The full report can be viewed here but most of the key outcomes revolve around mandatory inclusionary zoning. This means all new multi-family or mixed-use buildings must provide up to seven percent affordable living space to lower income renters. If a developer cannot provide the extra space, then it will be charged a fee that funds affordable living initiatives.
Re-zoning single-family home neighborhoods is often controversial because these areas are often highly inclusive and cost an average of $500,000 per home. Nearly 66 percent of Seattle urban land is zoned for single-family housing, which until now has restricted any type of non-traditional living spaces.
Another recommendation of the report urges the upzoning of these single-family areas located near transit, public services and city amenities into multi-family housing opportunities. This measure would also support older apartment buildings as they’re renovated in hopes of supporting more renters as the city continues to grow. Landlords willing to upgrade and upzone may even be rewarded with a property tax exemption for their inclusionary efforts.
This “grand bargain,” as Mayor Murray has described it, has been in the works since 2013 and isn’t set to be implemented until as late as 2017. But the land development community has already showed signs of acceptance while the affordability groups are eager to collaborate until more Seattleites can afford a place to call home.