The Seattle City Council moved one step closer to implementing a long-discussed program to place a fee on new construction in Seattle in order to expand the city’s affordable housing efforts.
On Tuesday, members of the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee unanimously passed a resolution stating the council’s intent to draft a so-called linkage fee program and instructs relevant city departments to start drawing up the plans. The resolution will go before the full council on October 20th. It will likely take several months for a draft ordinance to surface, council members said.
The linkage fee would replace the city’s existing incentive zoning program and could generate multiple times more funding for affordable housing projects. Under the initial proposal, developers in certain area could either pay a per-square-foot fee or dedicate at least 3% – 5% of the units in their project to those making below 80% of the area mean income.
The proposal has drawn serious ire from developers and their attorneys, some of whom were present at previous committee meetings. Council member Sally Clark said during Tuesday’s committee meeting that it was not lost on her that perhaps dozens of attorneys were listening in, but she said the plan would move forward. “This deals with a good problem to have, an affordability crunch due to the strong desire to develop in the city of Seattle,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray has tapped the expertise of Capitol Hill developer Maria Barrientos and others for his housing affordability advisory committee. The flurry of affordable housing activity comes as Seattle recently became the 10th most expensive U.S. city for renters with rents rising faster than any other major city.