Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning changes planned for March vote

View the city’s MHA proposal maps here

The City Council is planning a March vote on Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning hoped to further stem the tide of Seattle’s expensive rents and impossible house payments.

The council’s MHA committee meeting met for the first time in 2019 Monday to begin the process of sorting out amendments to the proposal before a February 25th public hearing on the plan and the March 18th vote hoped to bring the multi-year process to fruition.


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Under the MHA framework, affordability requirements chained to the proposed upzoning vary by scale and developers can choose to pay fees instead of including rent-restricted units. The legislation was expected to result in $380M in revenue from the payment option and 1,325 units over 20 years, according to city planners. That $380 million could build another 4,300 affordable units, according to the city’s analysis.

In November, the city’s Hearing Examiner ruled against a coalition of neighborhood groups calling for further review of the program clearing the way for the legislative process started in 2014 to finally continue.

CHS reported previously on the planned changes that would come to Capitol Hill zoning and the neighborhood’s relatively strong support for the plan — especially in comparison to some of the backlash that has emerged in other parts of the city. The proposed zoning changes for Capitol Hill and the Central District include transitioning Broadway from around Cal Anderson Park all the way north to Roy to 75-foot height limits and “neighborhood commercial” zoning that would allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout. Some of the bigger changes would also come around Meany Middle School and the Miller Community Center.

In the Central District, most proposed changes are focused on the area around Madison and 23rd with smaller areas around 23rd and Union and 23rd and Jackson where surgical upzoning has already been approved.

One big area of change to be considered will be “payment and performance amounts.” “In the legislation that was introduced in January 2018,” the memo notes, “no adjustments for inflation or other modifications, such as changes based on more current market rents and capitalization rates, were made.” The council may want to consider “adjustments to the payment amounts,” the entry concludes.

The other “Potential Areas for Amendments” the committee will be considering are listed in the council document below. They include proposed changes for how MHA could interact with Pike/Pine preservation incentive — an element of the plan CHS reported on here last year. The memo notes that “Councilmembers have received several requests for parcel-specific or area-wide adjustments to the proposed zoning changes” and will be tackling those requests later this month.

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