A bill in front of the Seattle City Council’s
planning housing committee Thursday would limit the rent affordable housing developers can charge for Small Efficiency Dwelling Units, the city’s slightly euphemistic term for microhousing and congregate-style apartments.
The legislation is an attempt to patch up Seattle’s Multifamily Tax Exemption program which currently has a loophole allowing developers taking part in the program to consider SEDU-style units as standard studios in calculating affordable rent limits.
The program provides a 12-year tax exemption in exchange for making 20% of a project’s units income and rent restricted.
According to the staff memo on the legislation, the bill “would reduce the maximum rent threshold for income-restricted SEDUs in MFTE projects to a level affordable to individuals earning 40% of AMI, resulting in a maximum monthly housing cost of $618 and a maximum annual income for a one-person household of $24,720.”
“[T]ypical SEDU market-rate rents are anticipated to be less than not only market-rate rents but also the restricted, affordable-rate rents for studios,” the analysis notes.
While the microhousing type developments that last year’s regulations have left plenty of room for on Capitol Hill are seen as one small part of the answer to achieving greater affordability in the city, a quick pass through Craigslist ads shows that many units around the Hill are going for more than 2x the proposed affordable cap. While one place will give you your 300 square feet for $900 month, others with 400 or so square feet weigh in around $1,400 per month.
In the meantime, here is one example of a microhousing project planned to be part of the MFTE gearing up for construction on Boylston.