Councilmember Sally Clark
Councilmember Tim Burgess
Councilmember Richard Conlin
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
CITY COUNCIL PASSES AFFORDABLE HOUSING INCENTIVE BILL
New incentive zoning program to stimulate development of affordable housing
SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council today approved a Workforce Housing Incentive program intended to stimulate creation of affordable housing by trading new capacity above established zoning heights in exchange for reserving a portion of a new building’s homes for persons earning less than Seattle’s median income.
Sally Clark, Chair of the Council’s Planning Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee, said of the legislation, “This is a step in the right direction toward providing more housing in the city, and ensuring that at least some of the new units will be affordable to working people.”
Seattle first adopted incentive zoning for residential buildings in 2006, when zoning heights in downtown were adjusted upwards. The Council’s action today did not rezone any areas. Rather, conditions of the newly adopted Workforce Housing Incentive Program may be employed when rezones are proposed in coming years. Areas already under consideration for zoning changes include South Downtown and South Lake Union.
Council Bill 116358 supports Seattle’s goals for concentrating growth in denser neighborhoods and ensuring housing affordability. The Puget Sound Regional Council predicts that by 2040, the
greater Puget Sound area will grow by another 1.7 million residents, many of whom will be looking for homes in Seattle. The Workforce Housing Incentive Program becomes another tool for the city to use to ensure that new development in Seattle’s neighborhoods leads to a wider spectrum of affordable housing options.
Council President Richard Conlin said, “The Workforce Housing Incentive Program is one of several tools necessary to provide affordable housing for young people and working families. As new transit programs link home with work, recreation, and shopping, the program will help ensure that these urban communities are accessible to a diverse range of our citizens.”
The newly expanded program gives the city the ability to present developers with a choice: build to a certain threshold height without an affordable housing requirement; or, build higher in return for setting aside 15% - 17.5% of living space in the bonus height area for people who make no more than 80 percent of this area’s median income. The affordable housing must remain affordable for a minimum of 50 years. Alternatively, a developer may opt to pay a fee equivalent to $18.94 per square foot of the new development space. The city can use fees only to fund development of affordable housing.
Tim Burgess, Vice Chair of the Planning Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee said, “This is the city government’s way of providing an economic stimulus package to the housing industry. Incentive zoning allows us to provide new building capacity to accommodate our growing housing need while giving developers incentives to encourage more housing construction.”
The program will be reviewed in 2010. At that time the Council could consider changes to the program to ensure effectiveness.
“Our goal is to provide a clear, consistent and certain program that will offer the promise of more affordable homes for Seattle’s citizens,” said Councilmember Jean Godden.