It’s time for the rubber to meet the road at City Hall where officials are aiming to create 20,000 new units of affordable housing in Seattle over the next decade. Mayor Ed Murray and City Council member Mike O’Brien were set to announce new housing legislation Tuesday that will create 6,000 of those units over ten years.
UPDATE 12:50 PM: One way or another, all new development in Seattle over the next decade will contribute to affordable housing. That was the message from Murray and O’Brien as they unveiled two pieces of proposed legislation (PDF) Tuesday afternoon at First Hill’s Cascade Court Apartments.
The first measure, known as mandatory inclusionary housing, would require all new multifamily buildings to make 5-8% of their units affordable to those making 60% of the area median income or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund. In 2013, Seattle households at 60% AMI took in $40,487. The plan calls for affordability to be calculated at 30% of income, meaning affordable units would be rent restricted to around $1,000 a month.
Developers would have the option to build an additional story, but they must pay-or-play regardless if that story is built. The rate at which developers would pay into the fund has not yet been determined. The fund will prioritize building housing within the same neighborhood from which the fees are generated, O’Brien said.
The second measure, known as the commercial linkage fee, would require all new commercial development to pay $5-$17 per square foot into an affordable housing fund. The option to build additional floor area will be included to help builders offset the fee. Developers would also have the option of providing an equivalent amount of housing offsite.
“This is a bold, progressive proposal where growth itself will support affordable and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods,” Murray said.
O’Brien said the bills will be introduced at City Council next week. A public hearing on the proposals will be held September 9th at 5:30 PM at City Hall.
Original Report: Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee released the “grand bargain” plan in July, which included a call for developers to build affordable housing into new buildings or pay a fee to fund it.
The O’Brien-led Select Committee on Housing Affordability started meeting in July on a work plan to tackle the linkage fee and inclusionary zoning measures. The measures to be unveiled Tuesday at First Hill’s Cascade Court Apartments, operated by the nonprofit Bellwether Housing, will be the first to start implementing the HALA recommendations.
The HALA report included 65+ recommendations in all, ranging from up-zones to parking changes. While it wasn’t part of the original grand bargain, Murray made a concession last month to drop a proposal to allow for more density in single family home areas after pressure mounted against it.
According to the mayor’s action plan timeline, creating more accessory dwelling units was supposed to be one of the first fruits of the HALA effort. The other is to sell the City’s surplus property for affordable housing, something that’s already underway.
The HALA report also includes a recommendation to work with the state legislature to increase the tax on real estate transactions — an issue Capitol Hill’s Rep. Brady Walkinshaw recently told CHS he would be taking up next year.
On Capitol Hill, there has been no summer relief from rising rents. The median rent for a 1-bedroom “Capitol Hill” apartment on Craigslist this past week was $1,850 a month, according to data pulled by CHS. A renter would need to make a pre-tax salary of at least $74,000 a year for that apartment to remain affordable, assuming a 30% affordability threshold. In May, the median listing rent was $1,750.
It’s part of a much longer trend of steadily rising rents in the neighborhood. Average rents went up 12% from 2013-2014 and have climbed 38% since 1998, according to a KUOW report earlier this year.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of property owners appear to be turning towards services like Airbnb to rent out units like hotel rooms. According to Inside Airbnb, Capitol Hill had 413 units listed on Airbnb on Monday — the highest number out of any neighborhood in the city. The average fee was $151 per night. Just over 40% of the listings were from hosts who owned multiple properties.