Four years and 40 Seattle City Council meetings later, the plan to surgically allow taller and more multifamily-packed development in the city’s densest neighborhoods including Capitol Hill has been approved.
“We’re embracing growth by embracing inclusion,” council member and Mandatory Housing Affordability committee chair Rob Johnson said Monday before the vote. “And we’re embracing inclusion by changing plans that were made 25 years ago.”
The vote Monday ran 9-0.
The MHA plan ties upzones in 27 of the city’s densest neighborhoods to the creation of affordable units and will transition a reported 6% of Seattle’s current single family-zoned property.
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It comes in a city with an ongoing affordability crisis where you need to earn more than $60,000 a year to afford a one-bedroom apartment.
Though the council has worked to shape the legislation for three years, opposition from homeowner groups continued through the end and could likely continue after Monday’s vote — in court. CHS reported Monday on a group of Capitol Hill homeowners opposed to upzoning in the plan that will allow taller, denser buildings in the nearby Eastlake neighborhood.
The MHA program will allow developers to add extra density to newly constructed buildings. In exchange, they will either have to set aside a percentage of the units as affordable housing, or pay into a fund that the city will use to build affordable housing.
The city expects the program will generate $380 million in revenue from the payment option and 1,325 units over 20 years. That $380 million could build another 4,300 affordable units.
The upzones under the MHA are confined to the Urban Villages dotted across Seattle – areas of generally higher density that surround commercial development and transit hubs.
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.
You can view a full map of MHA zoning changes here.
District 3 representative Kshama Sawant included amendments in the plan for surgical changes to the MHA upzones that were approved in a package with other similar changes across the city. Each of the four Sawant changes introduced increased density at locations in the Central District including the land owned by the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on 22nd Ave currently home to a “tiny house village” encampment.
Another amendment approved by the council added a so-called “claw back” provision intended to allow the council to roll back upzoning if the plan’s affordability elements are challenged legally.
Prior to the vote, Sawant said she supported MHA in part because of her experiences growing up in Mumbai where her family lived in a 450 square foot flat — “the only affordable housing available for working people.” But she said that the support for MHA had been “Inaccurately grandiose” calling it only “small affordable housing mandates” on big money developers.
“It is better than nothing,” Sawant said.