Capitol Hill’s 12th Ave Arts hoped to be a sign of things to come with Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability expansion

Mayor Jenny Durkan and city officials were on Capitol Hill Wednesday to sign the city’s new legislation expanding Mandatory Housing Affordability requirements and upzoning to Seattle’s densest neighborhoods, the largest step yet in addressing the city’s ongoing affordability crisis, and likely part of more to come if Seattle is to reach its ambitious goals for new affordable units over the next decade. The signing took place in the lobby of 12th Ave Arts where the 88 units of affordable housing are an example of how the new development fees will be put to work creating new places to live in an increasingly expensive city.

“The reason 12th Ave Arts was selected for this event is that the housing component was funded in part by city Incentive Zoning funds, the precursor to MHA,” Chris Persons, CEO of 12th Ave Arts nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing, said Wednesday.

“What was built here is far more than 88 units of affordable housing. We built community. The mission of Capitol Hill Housing is not simply to build housing. Our core purpose is to build vibrant and engaged communities”

Monday, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass the legislation expanding its MHA program to 27 neighborhoods across the city including Capitol Hill. MHA ties those upzones to the creation of affordable units either by requiring a portion of new housing to be made available at affordable rates or by requiring developers to pay into funding to build affordable housing elsewhere across the city.

The expansion signed Wednesday will also transition a reported 6% of Seattle’s current single family-zoned property to allow denser development.

The city says more than 45,000 Seattle households spend greater than 50% of their income on housing. MHA-generated housing will create a rent-restricted two-bedroom apartment for a family of four earning $60,200 would be $1,353, the city says. For an individual making less than $42,150, a one-bedroom would cost $1,128.

In a sample of recent ad listing for Capitol Hill apartments, a one-bedroom unit currently lists for around $1,800 — up only about 3% from a sampling we made this time of year in 2015 when rents had already exploded across the region.

The most significant changes to Capitol Hill zoning will come along Broadway from around Cal Anderson Park all the way north to Roy with plans to implement 75-foot height limits and “neighborhood commercial” zoning to allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout. Continue reading

New proposals in Olympia include incentives for low rents, automatic voter registration, gun restrictions

20150128_102843ksSeattle may not be able to force landlords to lower rents (yet), but a bill in the State Legislature could incentivize them to do so. A bipartisan bill introduced in the State Senate  would give rental property owners a 15-year break on their property taxes in exchange for reserving a quarter of the building’s apartments for low-income families earning less than 50 to 60 percent of the area median income.

Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) and Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) introduced the Preservation Tax Exemption bill last week. If passed, the incentive could contribute to the “preserve” part of Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to create or preserve 20,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade.

“We will never solve the housing affordability crisis if we only focus on construction of new apartments,” Murray said in a statement. “We must work to preserve existing affordable homes, including affordable market-rate homes. This is a cost-effective solution to prevent the displacement of thousands of families in our city.”

Still, the preservation program would fall well short of meeting Murray’s goals. The City estimates that it could preserve 3,000 affordable units over 10 years at the cost of $12 a year to the average property taxpayer. The program is a complement of sorts to Seattle’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption, which offers tax incentives to developers to build new units of affordable housing.

Once again, the fight to fully fund the state’s court-mandated education obligations will be the top priority for state lawmakers in this year’s 60-day session. Compounding the problem is the Tim Eyman-backed initiative that now requires a two-thirds vote for increasing taxes or a drastic decrease the sales tax rate. Capitol Hill’s representatives in Olympia recently pointed to November’s low voter turnout as the reason they are having to deal with Eyman’s initiative in the first place. Continue reading

Through Thanksgiving, City Council digs in on affordability, budget only — Hearing Tuesday night

No pie until you finish your budget, City Council

No pie until you finish your budget, City Council

From now through Thanksgiving, the Seattle City Council will focus on two things: affordability and City Hall’s 2016 budget. Everything else is canceled.

Tuesday night, brings the first council committee hearing on the proposed 2016 budget. CHS outlined the Capitol Hill and Central Seattle highlights including a DPD overhaul, streetcar extension, homelessness funding, bike share expansion, and cop body cams here.

Budget Committee Agenda
Tuesday, October 6, 2015 5:30 PM
Public Hearing
The Seattle City Council Budget Committee will conduct a public hearing to solicit public comment on: (1) the City’s 2016 General Revenue Sources, including a possible property tax levy increase; and (2) Mayor Edward B. Murray’s 2016 Proposed Budget.
This hearing will continue until all in-person comments have been received. In the interest of time, members of groups with similar interests are encouraged to combine their presentations. Group presentations will be limited to five minutes. Individual comments will be limited to two minutes or less.

Written comment can be sent to The hearing will be shown live on Seattle Channel 21 and online at A second hearing will be held Tuesday, October 20th at 5:30 PM, also at City Hall.

Monday, the full council approved legislation to help stop “economic evictions” in Seattle:

Council unanimously adopted a bill today to prevent landlords from drastically raising rents on low-income tenants for the purpose of evicting them without providing relocation assistance.  Currently, if a building is to be torn down or renovated, landlords must give tenants who have to move 90 days notice and pay $3,255 in Tenant Relocation Assistance to low-income households. Recently, there have been reports of low-income tenants’ rents doubling so they’ll voluntarily vacate, all so landlords can avoid paying the required relocation assistance.

The bill prohibits rent increases for the purpose of avoiding the required Tenant Relocation Assistance process:

If a landlord increases rent by 20% or more, which results in a tenant vacating a unit within 90 days, then applies for a permit to substantially rehabilitate the unit within 6 months, the owner can have their building permit denied until the owner pays the penalties. Penalties are $1,000 per day for each day from the date the violation began.

The Select Committee on Housing Affordability — which will continue to meet through the budget process — is currently shaping the first legislation out of the city’s affordability task force recommendations.

Sound Transit weighs options on First Hill property amid calls for new affordable housing

(Image: Sound Transit)

The First Hill properties are part of Sound Transit’s “transit oriented development” surplus holdings. (Image: Sound Transit)

First Hill won’t have a stop on the University Link Light Rail extension when it starts running in 2016, but it could still get a housing + retail + community space “transit oriented development” project like the one planned for Capitol Hill — albeit one that’s significantly smaller.

The First Hill Streetcar is one of the most well known outcomes of the Central Link Locally Preferred Alternative — the plan that would’ve put a light rail stop on First Hill. The streetcar was drawn up as a compromise to serve the neighborhood with rapid transit after the light rail stop was deemed unfeasible.

A lesser known component of the plan includes two surplus properties Sound Transit owns on First Hill, purchased in 2001 in anticipation of building a station near Madison and Boylston.

A new development will likely rise behind the Whole Foods project (shown in brown) on E Madison (Image by Tiscareno Associates)

A new development will someday rise at the Sound Transit properties behind the future Whole Foods project (shown in brown) on E Madison. (Image by Tiscareno Associates)

Today, Sound Transit leases 1400 Madison to a Moneytree payday loans store and 1014 Boylston as medical office space. The future of the properties remains up in air, but City officials are calling on the transit agency to commit to using the site for affordable housing.

Sound Transit is known for being conservative when it comes to purchasing, developing, and selling its properties. Turning a profit on First Hill shouldn’t be difficult. Developers planning a Whole Foods and 16-story apartment tower on the same block paid $21 million for the site in 2008, according to King County property records. According to Sound Transit, its 21,000 square foot site is zoned for a 160 foot tall building, either mixed use or office or residential. Several residential towers planned on nearby blocks will range from 275 to 300 units each. (Interestingly, Wells Fargo purchased the Moneytree property in 1999 for just $444,000 and sold it to Sound Transit two years later for $2.2 million). Continue reading