Representatives from City Hall and the Seattle Planning Commission will be at Capitol HIll’s 12th Ave Arts Monday night to talk about a newly released report that officials say shows changes to single-family zoning are “necessary for the city’s future.”
“Restoring the flexibility in housing types seen in Seattle’s historic residential neighborhoods is critical if the city is to achieve its goals of being a diverse, equitable and sustainable place to live,” a statement on the new “Neighborhoods for All” report reads.
City reps will be on Capitol Hill to talk about the report’s findings and the strategies the commission says should be implemented by Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council to begin “a return to the mix of housing and development patterns found in many of Seattle’s older and most walkable neighborhoods” across Seattle.
Among the findings:
- Seattle’s current zoning map shows three times more single-family land than multifamily and mixed-use land combined
- The vast majority of new residents were absorbed in areas zoned for multifamily dwellings, while areas zoned for one house per lot showed little change, and some even lost population.
- The average house size has increased by 1,000 square feet since 1900
Seattle officials identified the city’s growing affordability and equity problems years ago but changes to improve the situation have been ineffective, slow, and bogged down by legal challenges. Just before Thanksgiving, one major legal hurdle was finally overcome for the process to implement a Mandatory Housing Affordability program in the city’s densest neighborhoods. 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.
But Seattle’s zoning — even with the surgical MHA boosts — still leaves any future growth concentrated in certain areas of the city.
The new report could be the beginning of changing that equation.
“Seattle’s neighborhoods that grew around streetcar stops as compact walkable centers incorporated a mix of commercial activity and housing, including single-family houses, duplexes, triplexes, small apartments, and corner stores,” the city’s statement on the report reads. “Neighborhoods such as Wallingford, Queen Anne, and the Central District retain some of the mix of housing that was allowed in many areas until the 1950’s and as late as the 1970’s, when downzones made it illegal to build small multi-unit dwellings in neighborhoods zoned for one house per lot.”
A copy of the full report is below: