As the Seattle City Council moves toward a vote later this month to finalize the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability plan, legislation to buttress the program with extra protections against displacement in Seattle’s most vulnerable neighborhoods will begin moving forward Wednesday at City Hall.
Sponsored by West Seattle rep Lisa Herbold, the anti-displacement legislation will be taken up by the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee. Despite the Capitol Hill and Central District area’s high potential for displacement from continued redevelopment, Central Seattle’s many resources including jobs, high performing schools, and robust levels of transit would disqualify it from the proposed legislation’s protections.
Instead, areas with both high levels of potential displacement and low scores on an “Access to Opportunity Index” like Bitter Lake Village, South Park, Rainier Beach, Othello, and Westwood-Highland Park are the focus of the proposal.
This bill would amend Chapter 25.05, known as the City’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) ordinance to amend SEPA policies related to housing. The amended policies would authorize additional displacement mitigation for projects that are: Subject to the Mandatory Housing Affordability-Residential (MHA-R); Not categorically exempt; Located in urban villages identified as having a high risk of displacement and low access to opportunity; and Projects which would demolish existing units rented at rents affordable to households with incomes at or below 80% of the area median
Developers removing existing affordable housing in these areas would have two options — replace the units destined to be demolished or pay more into the city’s affordable housing kitty:
Replacing the units affordable to households with incomes at or below 80% of the area median
or Complying with the Mandatory Housing Affordability – Residential (MHA-R) program at higher payment or performance amounts equal to the requirements for zones within the area with an M2 suffix.
Later this month, the City Council is expected to finalize approval of its Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation and accompanying upzones in the city’s densest neighborhoods. While the new anti-displacement legislation might plug some holes in the program, some areas are sure to fall through the cracks. Last week, District 3 rep Kshama Sawant led a rally in support of residents at the Central District’s Chateau Apartments, a Section 8 affordable housing building slated for eventual demolition and redevelopment.
One outgrowth of the Herbold proposal could be more data about rents in Seattle. To enable the anti-displacement effort, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections would need to collect “relevant information about rents” of the existing units. The city doesn’t currently collect rent information for every development project. That data set seems important no matter what level of displacement and where on the access to opportunity index an area lands.
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