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

Capitol Hill homeowners mount last-ditch effort against MHA upzoning… in Eastlake

The view from Harvard Ave E (Image: CHS)

They know they are probably too late. They know that after a multi-year journey of hearings, community meetings, public comment, and legal challenges, the Seattle City Council wants the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation, which connects affordability mandates to upzoning parts of the city’s densest neighborhoods, to reach its destination during a final vote Monday afternoon. Perhaps they even know Monday’s vote is basically pro forma, as council members have worked on it for years and voted unanimously to advance the legislation last month.

And, yet, a group of North Capitol Hill homeowners, along with the Eastlake Community Council, is trying to fight the upzoning of a seven-block-long (and mostly half a block-deep) sliver of I-5-bordering properties in Eastlake. The amendment for zoning increase, from low-rise to mid-rise with a height limit of 80’ on Boylston Ave. E and a short stretch of Franklin Ave. E was recently introduced and approved by the city council as part of a series of amendments that scaled back upzones across neighborhoods and increased some others. Continue reading

10 conversations from the District 3 Mandatory Housing Affordability open house

The process to shape new zoning that will raise some building heights and introduce new affordability requirements for development around Capitol Hill and other dense Seattle neighborhoods came to District 3 last week as Washington Hall hosted a Mandatory Housing Affordability open house. CHS was there to hear what attendees had to say about the plan, questions, and what City Hall reps had to say about the proposals that are hoped to be the next big step in Seattle’s efforts to create a new surge of affordable housing production in the city.

The process will culminate on April 16 at Broadway Performance Hall for a public hearing before the City Council finalizes its legislation.

District 3 and District 7 MHA Public Hearing

You can submit your comments via email citywidemha@seattle.gov. No rush. You have until July.

Bill Bradburd, 20-year Seattle resident, a former candidate for the City Council, and a frequent critic of City Hall status quo said he came out to “see what the city’s dog and pony show was all about.”

Ed Murray, Mike O’Brien,Vulcan representatives and the non-profit housing industry came up with this plan of upzoning everything everywhere in exchange for these low fees,” Brafburd said. “The developers signed on because the fees are low, unlike San Francisco,” the plan critic continued. “The non-profits signed on because they’re the ones getting all the money to build this stuff. So all this cheerleading of HALA happens.”

“Most new housing in Seattle is replacing one-story retail or parking lots so there’s very little physical displacements especially on Capitol Hill and MHA is going to let us build slightly taller slightly more densely, which will push down rents –- that’s what the theory and study say and then the city will get MHA money to build affordable housing in our neighborhood,” Zach Lubarsky, a technology worker and member of the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative (and a CHS reader!) said. “Development without displacement is a net good in my view.”

We heard more from Bradburd, Lubarsky, and others and share more of their conversations below. Continue reading

75 feet up and down Broadway — Seattle ‘Preferred Alternative Zoning’ plan released

With reporting by Kelsey Hamlin

With Mayor Tim Burgess’s noon press event in a Capitol Hill park to kick off the next phase in the process, officials have released the first look at the “Preferred Alternative Zoning” proposal at the core of Mandatory Housing Affordability, citywide changes intended to help create some 6,000 units of “rent restricted homes” across Seattle by connecting affordability mandates to upzoning parts of around 6% of the city.

“Today we continue our push to address Seattle’s housing affordability crisis,” said Burgess in the city’s announcement (in full at the bottom of this post. “With this plan, we will extend our requirement that new developments contribute to Seattle’s affordable housing supply. We’ve already implemented this requirement in the University District, downtown, and elsewhere. Now it’s time to bring this requirement to other high-opportunity neighborhoods so that we can hasten our progress in building a more inclusive and equitable city.”

“The MHA is not just about affordable housing,” said Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson. “It’s about the terms of those units.”

The City Council will consider the proposal and hold public hearings before the plan is finalized. New affordable housing units created under the plan must maintain their rates for 75 years.

“It’s a very long piece of legislation,” Johnson said. “Each of these individual neighborhoods requires some TLC [Tender, Love, and Care].”

You can view the newly released map here and navigate to specific addresses. Hashed areas indicate proposed zoning changes. The proposal comes after months of public feedback after the framework for MHA was first set last fall.

Additional public feedback is expected to run over the first six months of 2018. Johnson predicted legislation for these changes wouldn’t actually happen until July or August 2018.

The proposal released Thursday morning includes transitioning Broadway from around Cal Anderson Park all the way north to beyond 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 the Miller Community Center where planners are now proposing a less aggressive upzone than one potential alternative had originally proposed. Moving toward the Central District, most proposed changes are focused on the area around Madison and 23rd with notable exceptions around 23rd and Union and 23rd and Jackson where surgical upzoning has already been approved.

Under the MHA framework, affordability requirements chained to the upzoning vary by “scale” and developers can choose to pay fees instead of including the rent-restricted units — Continue reading