Seattle’s Grand Bargain moves forward, trading bigger buildings for affordable housing fees

So, this is the Grand Bargain. The Seattle City Council’s housing affordability committee Monday approved two pieces of legislation designed to put the city on track to create 20,000 affordable units in the next 10 years.

Seattle will likely need every one of those 3,650 or so days to reach the goal. Major impact from the linkage fee and mandatory inclusion bills approved Monday likely won’t be felt for years. First will come a 2016 process to rezone areas of the city to allow greater density, then years of permitting and construction.

The commercial linkage fee will require all new commercial development to pay into an affordable housing fund or create an equivalent amount of housing at another site. In exchange, developers that brave Seattle will be rewarded with additional floor area to help builders offset the costs.

Mandatory inclusionary housing will 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 full City Council is expected to vote on the bills in early November.

Mayor Ed Murray took to Twitter following the session to laud the votes.

Monday, the full Council also took up some affordability-related votes on legislation designed to change Seattle’s comprehensive planning to reflect the new affordability goals:

Clarify the City’s goals and policies related to affordable housing to strengthen the City’s policy direction and provide further policy support for addressing the need for affordable housing.

Broaden the range of affordable housing strategies the City should consider.

Make clear that both incentive-based and non-incentive-based strategies should be considered.

Make clear that the City may establish a program whereby impacts on affordable housing that are generated by total project area, not just area above a base height or density may be required to be at least partially mitigated.

The legislation also included some broad, high level goals for development in the Central District:

Att 7-A – Neighborhood Planning Element – Central Area (3)

What’s the future for E Madison near 23rd? “A vibrant, revitalized pedestrian-oriented commercial district on East Madison from 16th to 24th Avenues that serves both local and destination shoppers with a variety of shops and services” and “a vibrant, revitalized pedestrian-oriented commercial node at Madison St. between 19th Avenue and 23rd Avenue that principally serves local residents,” if city planners have anything to say about it.

The full Council also approved a bill Monday that will “repeal the categorical exemption for SEPA review of proposed ‘infill’ development.” The new treatment of projects that previously qualified as “infill” will add more projects in the city requiring environmental review. Slow growth neighbors will like that. It will also mean more fees — estimated between $20,000 and $45,000 in 2016. DPD will like that.

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14 thoughts on “Seattle’s Grand Bargain moves forward, trading bigger buildings for affordable housing fees

  1. “Years of permitting and construction.” Oh joy. Seattle has been sold off to developers for a few thousand tech workers and it won’t be Seattle much longer.

    • Hahaha, sure. Sold off to developers who are going to build or pay for 20k affordable units. Verses the current requirement: 0.

      Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

    • “And it won’t be Seattle much longer”. Except that it will.

      Seattle of 2015 is nothing like Seattle of 1965. Which is nothing like Seattle of 1915. Which is nothing like Seattle of 1865. But each one is Seattle. As will the Seattle of 2065 be. What makes you think that your version of the city gets to be frozen in time for perpetuity, contrary to the history of every city on earth?

      • That’s an interesting perspective. Excepting it ignores that there is such a thing negative change that’s bad for pretty much everybody – everybody but a narrow bandwidth of wealthy interests. And it’s happened to cities all over the world. Sorry but there times where cities serve a wider variety of people and are better, culturally speaking, and there are times where cities have been rendered total shit holes.

      • There are a lot of people who like being in a denser, more walkable and transit-friendly city. It’s not just rich people, believe it or not.

      • I agree! And that’s why HALA is great… adds a marginal amount more market rate housing for a good chunk of affordable housing. Seems like a good tradeoff to get peoples of all incomes in most neighborhoods.

      • And to me, the claim that Seattle is being rendered a total shithole by the current round of growth is ludicrous on its face. And shows absolutely no knowledge of the forces that made the current city that you so love. And no, I’m not wealthy.

  2. Is there a better map out there showing the actual streets on Cap Hill within the implementation area? Cant tell much with the map currently.

  3. What we should require is that all new projects have 10% low income units built into the location, not paying into a fund to do it somewhere else. Baristas, cleaners, etc should be able to live near their jobs too.

    • So everybody should get the same view and amenities regardless of how much they pay for it?

      I cannot afford a BMW but I want one, should they change the price so that I can afford it.

      Low income housing should be in the same neighborhood but NOT in the same building if this means that your neighbor pays twice as much for the same product. That is downright unfair if that is going to be the way things go.

      Not everybody is entitled to the same outcome, that would be communism

    • The state enabling law says developers can pay an equivalent amount of moneys instead – can’t do anything unless we change state law.

  4. “Mandatory inclusionary housing will 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”

    To be clear: it’s 5-8% affordable because state law requires a value-for-value exchange with additional floors. This is important info because everyone asks “why only 5-8%”? It’s because you limit heights so much!