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In a Significant Step toward Creating A More Affordable Seattle, Mayor Durkan Signs Mandatory Housing Affordability into Law

All Seattle multifamily and commercial development will contribute to new rent- and income-restricted affordable housing for low-income households

MHA is the City’s largest funding contributor to affordable housing since the creation of the Seattle Housing Levy in 1981

SEATTLE (March 20, 2019) – Joined by affordable housing advocates and other community members, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan signed into law the ordinance to implement Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) in Seattle’s 27 urban villages and all other commercial and multifamily residential areas.

“Today, Seattle another step toward more affordable housing choices and a more affordable, welcoming city for all,” said Mayor Durkan. “We need more affordable housing as quickly as possible because too many people are being priced out of our city. We want a city where people who work in Seattle can afford to live and raise a family in Seattle. This legislation is one way we can build a more affordable future for all. Even as we celebrate this step, we have a lot of work to do to make Seattle more affordable and build more affordable housing options. We must listen to community and continue our investments in our housing levy, renew the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program, invest in parks and green spaces, and continue to have critical investment from our state, regional, and federal partners. Working with community members, business, labor, and City Council, in 2019 we must double down on our commitment to building more affordable housing as quickly as possible.”

“MHA has been shaped by years of community input and engagement. For three years running, my days have been filled with discussing how to reach our goal of creating more units of housing in the next decade. As such, I view MHA as one of the primary strategies to create more affordable housing, as well as address the legacy of ‘redlining’.  And today’s vote is an exclamation point on our recognition of its impact on housing inequality for all Seattlites,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle)

On Monday, after more than a year of Council meetings and public hearings, the City Council unanimously approved implementing MHA’s affordable housing requirements citywide. The ordinance will generate an estimated 3,000 new affordable homes over 10 years, doubling the number of anticipated new affordable homes created through the 2017 implementation on new developments in the University District, Downtown, South Lake Union, Chinatown-International District, along 23rd Ave in the Central Area, and Uptown, helping the City to meet the 10-year goal of 6,000 new affordable homes generated by MHA.

Today over 45,000 Seattle households spend more than half of their income on housing. Under MHA, the cost of a rent-restricted two-bedroom apartment for a family of four earning $60,200 would be $1,353. For an individual making less than $42,150, a one-bedroom would cost $1,128.

“I am delighted to be here to witness Mayor Durkan sign the Mandatory Housing Affordability ordinance addressing the demand for housing that is affordable as our City continues to grow,” said Faith Pettis, a Partner at Pacifica Law Group and the Co-Chair of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Council. “MHA was a cornerstone proposal of the task force and was crafted to harness affordability to growth. We recognize we still have more work ahead to ensure an inclusive and affordable city, but this is a big step towards a better future for Seattle.”

Mayor Durkan signed the legislation at 12th Avenue Arts, a mixed-use, affordable building developed and owned by Capitol Hill Housing. The City of Seattle provided $7.6 million in funding for the building, a portion of which was from the Incentive Zoning program, a voluntary precursor to the MHA program. In addition to 86 studio, one- and two-bedroom affordable homes, the building provides community amenities including two Black Box performance theaters, office space for Capitol Hill Housing, retail space for local restaurants, and secure parking for Seattle Police Department vehicles. MHA payments will be used to create more buildings like 12th Avenue Arts throughout the city.

“Mandatory Housing Affordability will create affordable homes for our neighbors who struggle to meet housing costs in our neighborhoods across Seattle,” said Marty Kooistra, Executive Director of the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County and Co-Chair of the Seattle for Everyone Coalition. “This long-awaited new law will mean people who work as pre-school teachers, medical assistants and retail workers that are vital to our local economy will be able to live in our community near high-quality schools, transit and their jobs.”

The MHA affordable housing requirements take effect as the City adopts new zoning that adds development capacity. With today’s action, all designated urban villages (neighborhood centers) and multifamily residential and commercial zones will see zoning changes, allowing slightly larger or taller buildings. Additional development capacity is focused near transit centers, allowing more people to live or work near light rail stations and frequent bus service.

With MHA, developers have two options when creating new buildings:

  • The performance option includes affordable housing in the development;
  • The payment option allows developers to contribute to the Seattle Office of Housing to support the development of affordable housing.

MHA requirements vary based on housing costs in each area of the city and the scale of the zoning change, with higher MHA requirements in areas with higher housing costs and larger zoning changes. With the performance option, between 5 percent and 11 percent of homes in new multifamily residential buildings are reserved for low-income households. With the payment option, development will contribute between $5.00 and $32.75 per square foot.

The City has balanced the requirements of the two options, with the goal of half of new projects selecting each option. The City will provide regular reports to Mayor Durkan beginning September 2019 with program performance, and data that may be used to suggest changes to program requirements.

In addition to signing the new ordinance expanding MHA to create more affordable housing, since 2017, Mayor Durkan has announced more than 2,000 new affordable homes coming online by 2022. In January, Mayor Durkan launched the city’s first-ever Affordable Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council, to address the housing needs of middle-income earners. In February, Mayor Durkan announced her Executive Order addressing affordability and residential displacement.