If Seattle is going to build its way out of affordability crisis, why aren’t there more Capitol Hill design reviews?

If Seattle is to “build its way of out” its affordability crisis, the market seems to be indicating that Capitol Hill, for now at least, has done enough. Design review, the most public component in Seattle’s development process, has slowed to a trickle in the East District covering Capitol Hill and parts of the Central District. There is only a single project on the East review board’s calendar this month; last year there were six. After a small pulse of activity in January, looking ahead, the calendar doesn’t appear much more robust. In 2017, there were more than 30 reviews scheduled for major projects in the area.

The simplest explanation could be that we’re simply built out. Liz Dunn, the Capitol Hill-based developer behind Chophouse Row, said she wasn’t sure what might be behind a slowdown, except that all the sites just might finally be built.

There are other indicators that also point to a construction slowdown. The number of active cranes dropped over the past six months. We still have more than any other city in the US, but this is the first time the number has gone down in years.

Seattle has built more than 300 new apartment buildings since 2010, many of them in this area. Recently, some analysis suggests rents have stabilized, and even dropped in parts of the city, a possible indicator that supply has finally caught up with demand.

And the supply is going to keep going up in the neighborhood in the near term. The development at Capitol Hill Station, the Bonney-Watson project, a building on what used to be Piecora’s, new development at 23rd and Union and more at 23rd and Jackson, mean there will be hundreds of new units available in the next couple years.

Only time will tell if this is a blip or the start of a trend, but people who study development issues across the city and on Capitol Hill point to a number of possible reasons. Continue reading

Seattle begins Mandatory Housing Affordability open house sessions

A slide from a recent MHA presentation to the City Council. The full set from the presentation is below.

Tuesday night, neighbors in northeast Seattle’s District 4 attended the first in a series of Mandatory Housing Affordability open houses planned across the city — our joint District 3 and District 7 session is lined up for the end of March:

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods will be hosting open houses throughout the city to provide everyone the opportunity to look at the revised Mandatory Housing Affordability maps and learn more about livability in Seattle.

These open houses are a great chance to talk with City staff from various departments, connect with your neighbors, and share information. All ages are welcome, so feel free to bring the kids. We will have complimentary food and beverages. Continue reading

First look at new plan for redevelopment of 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center

Monday’s MLK Day 2018 marchers will pass by the site of the next major change for the neighborhood around 23rd and Union. Here are the first designs for the new mixed market-rate and “inclusive development” project planned for the Midtown Center block.

The newly released plans from architects Weinstein A+U and the Berger Partnership include room for somewhere around 429 units in 273,000 square-feet of residential space, new restaurant and commercial space surrounding a large “public plaza,” and room for nearly 300 vehicles to park below ground. Continue reading

Why Roy Street Commons, a short-term rental exception, stands alone on Capitol Hill

When the Seattle City Council passed a set of regulations designed to boost affordability by reeling in short-term rentals, one Capitol Hill property owner got very lucky.

The regulations passed in December generally restricted the number of housing units a person can operate as a short-term rental to a unit in their own home, plus one more unit. There were a couple exceptions which allowed for grandfathering operators of properties to continue doing so, with some restrictions which vary by where in the city the units are. The rules will go into effect January 1st, 2019.

But there was one more exception.

A very carefully worded exemption which seems to apply only to a single building in Seattle — the Roy Street Commons at 621 12th Ave E. Continue reading

Seattle’s ‘Neighborhood Parking Reform’ — reduced requirements, ‘unbundling’ of costs, shared parking

Proposed Areas With Parking Flexibility Map (Image: City of Seattle)

Legislation hoped to help reduce housing costs in Seattle by allowing so-called “shared parking,” giving developers fewer reasons to create large parking structures, and opening more buildings to offer parking on the open market will be taken up by the Seattle City Council’s planning and land use committee starting Wednesday morning.

CHS wrote about the legislation from the office of then-Mayor Tim Burgess in November and its potential for helping renters. Parking costs “make up 10-20% of typical construction projects,” according to the city.

The legislation package — hopefully titled Neighborhood Parking Reform — would require the “unbundling of parking space rental from multi-family dwelling unit rental and lease agreements in new and existing structures 10 dwelling units or greater in size, and new commercial lease agreements in new and existing structures 10,000 square feet or greater in size.” Continue reading

Shaping Capitol Hill Housing’s affordable LGBTQ-focused senior housing project

Capitol Hill Housing hosted its first public discussion Tuesday night with the community it will house in preparation for shaping what it hopes will be the nation’s first LGBTQIA+-focused affordable senior housing at 14th and Union. It just might take a little longer to come up with the money to pay for it.

Walter Zisette, associate director for real estate at Capitol Hill Housing, told the crowd the first of its kind senior housing development was not among the projects selected this year by the city’s Office of Housing for some $100 million in affordable housing investments.

“That’s not stopping us at all,” Zisette said. “ It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

Zisette estimated CHH will need another year to find more financing to cover the project’s $24 million budget. He still felt the new project would be ready for occupants in 2020.

Despite the disappointing news, attendees presented plenty of ideas. The most frequent request was that CHH consider intergenerational opportunities for its occupants as the project comes together.

“It’s important not to be cut off from other people,” said Ty Nolan, an LGBTQIA+ elder and attendee. “And it’d be nice to have something like a head start or daycare where people can volunteer as grandparents.”

78-year-old Brandy Sedron-Kelley said allowing LGBTQIA+ seniors to connect with the next generation can prevent a lot of hate and misconception. Continue reading

Belmont Ave low-income and re-entry project part of $100M in Seattle affordable housing grants

(Image: Pioneer Human Services)

A Belmont Ave project to create a seven-story building with 90 units for a mix of the lowest income tenants and housing for formerly incarcerated and homeless residents will be part of more than $101 million in City Hall funding announced Monday for affordable housing across Seattle.

“Too many long-time residents are getting locked out and pushed out of Seattle. We need to urgently increase the amount of affordable housing to stop the huge displacement of people and provide permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said of the 2017 slate of affordable investments from the Office of Housing. “With this investment, our city is delivering on our commitment to create more affordable housing, including building 900 new homes and keeping 550 homes affordable for the next 50 years.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing project at 14th and Union will create affordable LGBTQ-focused senior housing

True affordability means keeping rents in the city down for everybody. An effort to help Capitol Hill Housing shape “Seattle’s first LGBTQ-affirming affordable senior housing development” at 14th and Union will take another step forward next week with a Community Visioning Workshop:

LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing: Community Visioning Workshop

“We’ve heard consistently from the community about the need for a place where LGBTQ elders in the community could age,” said Ashwin Warrior, Capitol Hill Housing spokesperson. “LGBTQ seniors were also named a priority population for the 2016 Housing Levy which adds extra impetus to the efforts.” Continue reading

To push back on short-term rental boom, Seattle adds new Airbnb regulations

The Seattle City Council followed through Monday on a second piece of legislation to further regulate the short term rental market in the city and raise new funding from the industry.

Council members approved a package of rules that will limit owners to only two units at a time on services like Airbnb. The new rules will also require the platform companies including Airbnb and Expedia to pay for a permit to operate in Seattle. The approved legislation calls on the city to study how much the platform companies should be charged to help pay for regulation and enforcement of the industry. Continue reading

Seattle tenant rights rally, pop-up renters clinic to greet landlord trade show

Tenant rights, labor, and housing advocate groups are planning a day of protests and education to counterbalance the presence of landlords from around the state at an industry trade show at the convention center downtown Tuesday.

The Rally for Tenant Rights will start around 11 AM at Westlake Center. Organizers say State Representative Nicole Macri, and City Council members Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda are scheduled to attend: Continue reading