Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA)

MHA Timeline

What is MHA?

Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) is a new policy to ensure that growth brings affordability. MHA will require new development to include affordable homes or contribute to a City fund for affordable housing. To put MHA into effect, we need to make zoning changes that add development capacity and expand housing choices. For more than two years, we heard community input on the proposal to implement MHA.

For more, read our MHA overview and a technical summary of how MHA works. 

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What's Happening Now?

On November 9, 2017, we released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluates putting MHA into effect throughout the city. Our Final EIS includes a Preferred Alternative for implementing MHA in multifamily and commercial zones, urban villages, and urban village expansions studied during the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan process. 

Read the proposed MHA legislation that the City Council will be reviewing. 

Next Steps: City Council Review

To review the proposed legislation, the City Council will form a Committee of the Whole so that all Council members can review the MHA legislation in committee. The Council will also conduct an extensive public engagement process before voting on the legislation, including lunch-and-learn events, public hearings, and community open houses. See our calendar for the schedule of Council community engagement events beginning in January 2018 (dates and times subject to change).

After community engagement, the Council is expected to vote to implement MHA in summer 2018. Email the City Council to comment on the proposed legislation.

MHA Zoning Maps

In November 2017, we published our Preferred Alternative maps for MHA implementation. You can view them with our interactive web map and in an appendix to the Final EIS.

The Preferred Alternative refines the draft proposal we published in October 2016. We took feedback on this draft through June 2017 and incorporated your input into the Preferred Alternative. 

Legislation

Read the legislation to put MHA into effect that we've sent to the City Council for their review:

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

On November 9, 2017, we published a Final EIS that evaluates a range of alternatives for implementing MHA and increasing housing choices. Before the Final EIS, we released a Draft EIS on June 8, 2017, and took public comments until August 7, 2017.

Comprehensive Plan Amendments

We're proposing amendments to the City's Comprehensive Plan in parallel with MHA implementation in urban villages throughout the city. The City Council considers Comprehensive Plan amendments once each year. Review a description of the 2017-18 Comprehensive Plan amendments for MHA implementation and visit our Comprehensive Plan page for more information.

For two years, we have sought your input on MHA. We have heard a wide range of views and captured those perspectives in our Summary of Community Input (22 mb). We document our outreach and engagement process, summarize the themes we heard, and present maps for each urban village identifying how and why we refined the draft zoning proposal into our Preferred Alternative.

The PDFs linked below have each urban village's map and an introduction to MHA. To those of you who contributed, thank you for your time and energy during this process.

23rd and Union-Jackson Morgan Junction
Admiral North Beacon Hill
Aurora-Licton Springs North Rainier
Ballard Northgate
Bitter Lake Othello
Columbia City Rainier Beach
Crown Hill Roosevelt
Eastlake South Park
First Hill-Capitol Hill U District / Ravenna
Fremont Upper Queen Anne
Green Lake Wallingford
Greenwood-Phinney Ridge West Seattle Junction
Lake City Westwood-Highland Park
Madison-Miller  

MHA is now in effect in the following neighborhoods:

Legislative Documents

Chinatown-International District

Downtown and South Lake Union

SEPA Draft Proposal (May 2016)

Original Draft Proposal (November 2015)

MHA-Residential Framework (adopted August 2016)

MHA-Commercial Framework (adopted November 2015; amended December 2016)

Key Resources

MHA Final EIS

Preferred Alternative zoning changes (November 2017)

Map of high, medium, and low MHA areas

November 2017

MHA Frequently Asked Questions: Introduction

FAQ: What's New in the Process?

FAQ: MHA Background

FAQ: Community Engagement and Community Planning

FAQ: Affordable Housing Created through MHA

FAQ: Livability

FAQ: What does it mean if my property is rezoned?


MHA Frequently Asked Questions: Introduction

The City of Seattle has been working since 2014 to implement new programs and tools to meet our city's growing housing affordability challenge. A cornerstone of this effort is Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA)-a policy that requires new growth to contribute to affordable housing. By putting in place new affordability requirements at the same time as rezones to allow more housing capacity, MHA uses a state-sponsored approach that has been used in other Washington cities. In high-demand cities like Seattle, creating new housing choices -- especially those affordable to low- and moderate-income households -- is an essential citywide housing affordability strategy. MHA will ensure that we harness new market-rate development to produce needed housing for our low-income households - such as seniors, artists, and working families. Creating more rent- and income-restricted housing is critical to combatting residential displacement across the city.

FAQ: What's New in the Process?

What is new in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

In November 2017, the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) published a Final EIS for citywide MHA implementation. The Final EIS included a Preferred Alternative for MHA implementation, supplemental analysis on topics including racial equity and public school enrollment, and responses to approximately 800 comments we received on the Draft EIS. This state-required EIS process examined various impacts of alternatives for MHA implementation and proposed mitigation measures. The Final EIS put forward a Preferred Alternative, based on community engagement, the DEIS analysis, and comments on the DEIS. The EIS is one input, combined with over two years of community engagement, that has shaped the citywide MHA implementation proposal. (top)

What is the Preferred Alternative and why was it selected?

The City is moving forward with zoning changes to implement MHA so that new growth will help build more affordable housing. After two years of community engagement and environmental assessment, we remain committed to increasing access to more affordable housing across our city. What we heard from community members is that preventing displacement -- and the disproportionate impacts it has on low-income households and communities of color -- is a core value throughout the city. It has been central to our work to create this program. Therefore, the MHA rezones target more housing development to communities where existing residents are less vulnerable to displacement and where there exist more assets to provide for a growing population, like parks and transit. MHA also targets more housing development near transit to provide greater access to jobs and services. For communities at high risk of displacement, where affordable housing options may not yet be sufficient to keep up with larger scale changes, MHA rezones are moderated to ensure that market rate development contributes to affordable housing -- a key tool for addressing displacement -- while reducing the relative scale of change to these high displacement risk communities. (top)

What happens next?

The City Council will consider legislation to implement Citywide MHA in 2018. The City Council will continue to engage community members as it considers the legislation. The Council has announced open houses and public hearings around Seattle so that community voices can shape the proposal. Learn more about the City Council process for Citywide MHA at www.seattle.gov/council. (top)

When are the next open houses and public hearings on this proposal?

View our calendarDates and times subject to change.

District 4 Open House │ Tuesday, January 30, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Hamilton International Middle School (Commons)
1610 N 41st St Seattle, WA 98103 (map)

District 4 Public Hearing │ Monday, February 12, 6:00 p.m.
Eckstein Middle School (Auditorium)
3003 NE 75th St, Seattle, WA 98115 (map)

District 5 + 6 Open House │ Wednesday, February 28, 6:00-8:00 p.m.    
Whitman Middle School Gym (Large Gym)           
9201 15th Ave NW Seattle, WA 98117 (map)

District 5 + 6 Public Hearing, │ Monday, March 12, 6:00 p.m.
Northgate Community Center (Gym)
10510 5th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98125 (map)

District 3 + 7 Open House │ Thursday, March 29, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Washington Hall (Main Hall)       
153 14th Ave, Seattle, Washington 98122 (map)

District 3 + 7 Public Hearing │ Monday, April 2, 6:00 p.m.
Seattle Central College (Broadway Performance Hall)
1625 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122 (map)

District 2 Open House │ Saturday, April 28, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.            
New Holly Gathering Hall
7054 32nd Ave S, Seattle WA 98118 (map)

District 2 Public Hearing │ Monday, May 7, 6:00 p.m.
Franklin High School
3013 S Mt Baker Blvd, Seattle, WA 98144 (map)

District 1 Open House │ Wednesday, May 9, 6:00-8:00 p.m.         
Louisa Boren STEM K-8 (Boren Gym 1)   
5950 Delridge Way SW Seattle, WA 98106 (map)

District 1 Public Hearing │ Tuesday, June 5, 6:00 p.m.
Chief Sealth International High School
2600 SW Thistle St, Seattle, WA 98126 (map)

Downtown Public Hearing │ Monday, June 25, 5:30 p.m.
City Hall (Council Chambers)
600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104 (map)

FAQ: MHA Background

What is Mandatory Housing Affordability?

Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) is a program that ensures new commercial and multifamily residential development contribute to affordable housing. MHA will provide at least 6,000 new rent-restricted homes for low-income people. Affordable housing requirements take effect when the Seattle City Council adopts new zoning that adds development capacity. By enacting affordable housing requirements in tandem with additional development capacity, MHA is consistent with a state-approved approach used in other Washington cities. After putting MHA in place in six Seattle neighborhoods in 2017, we are proposing to implement MHA citywide. Our proposal targets more housing choices close to community assets, such as frequent transit, parks, and jobs. We are proposing less intensive changes in areas with higher risk of displacement, environmentally sensitive areas, and areas with fewer community assets. View the maps of proposed zoning changes necessary to implement MHA across Seattle. (top)

What are rezones and why are they a part of MHA?

Every parcel of property in Seattle has a zoning classification that determines what can be built there. Rezones are changes to the zoning classification. For example, a single-family-zoned parcel that allows a single-family structure under current zoning could be rezoned to LR1 to allow lowrise residential buildings like townhouses. By enacting rezones at the same time as new affordable housing requirements, MHA is consistent with a state-approved approach used in other Washington cities. (top)

What is Citywide MHA implementation?

In 2018, City Council will consider rezones to increase the number of homes that can be built across the city. These rezones are necessary to enact new affordable housing requirements so that new growth in Seattle will contribute to affordable housing. The proposal - called Citywide MHA Implementation - will rezone urban villages throughout Seattle and other areas that currently allow commercial or multifamily development. These rezones will ensure that, as Seattle grows, we are creating new rent-restricted homes for low-income households that might otherwise be priced out of the city. (top)

What are urban villages, and why will MHA apply there?

Seattle's Urban Village Strategy has been in place since 1994. It identifies 30 communities where the City directs public investments in community assets such as transit and parks and where we will accommodate most of Seattle's future population and job growth. In the last two years, more than 80 percent of Seattle's new homes have been built in its urban villages. MHA will ensure that, as these places continue to grow, we are producing needed affordable housing near transit and other community assets. (top)

Where is MHA already in effect?

In 2017, the City Council unanimously adopted rezones to establish new MHA affordability requirements in the U District, Downtown, South Lake Union, Chinatown/International District, Uptown, and portions of the Central Area. New development in these communities is now required to contribute to affordable housing, either by building new affordable homes on-site or contributing to a fund that will leverage additional local, state, and federal dollars to build affordable homes throughout Seattle. (top)

Why are some areas of the city exempt from MHA?

There are several reasons certain areas are exempt from MHA. In some areas, redevelopment is undesirable due to environmental factors, such as shorelines, or historic preservation, such as federally recognized historic districts. In addition, the type of commercial and multifamily redevelopment that would trigger MHA requirements is prohibited in certain areas, like industrial zones, major institutions, and areas zoned for exclusively single-family housing. (top)

How were racial and social justice considered in the proposal?

The City used a race and social justice lens in several ways to develop and analyze the Citywide MHA proposal. First, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods used a racial equity lens in the community engagement process that shaped the MHA proposal. This included deliberate work with existing community organizations, such as the Urban League, Latino Equity Network, and Yesler Community Collaborative, to engage communities that have been traditionally under-represented in planning processes or may face barriers to participation, such as language. During the nine-month facilitated process that shaped the MHA implementation principles, the City selected focus group members based on demographic factors (including race) and offered stipends, transportation assistance, and childcare to facilitate participation.

Second, the EIS for the Citywide MHA proposal included an expanded analysis on race and ethnicity above and beyond what is required by state law. The Final EIS examined the history of discrimination in land use regulation in Seattle, discussed factors contributing to cultural displacement, and analyzed the relationship between new housing production and changes in households of color. The Final EIS also identified strategies, including and beyond MHA, that can provide affordable housing and commercial spaces to combat the residential and cultural displacement that disproportionately impacts communities of color in Seattle.

Finally, the Citywide MHA proposal itself uses the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan's Growth and Equity Analysis to distribute new zoning capacity across Seattle communities. The Growth and Equity Analysis examined demographic, economic, and physical factors to understand both displacement risk and access to opportunity among Seattle's Urban Villages. The Displacement Risk Index consisted of 14 variables, such as people of color (percentage of the population that is a race other than non-Hispanic white, 2010 Census) and linguistic isolation (percentage of households in which no one over age 14 speaks English, 2008-2012 ACS). By using this analysis to guide zoning, the Citywide MHA proposal provides more housing choices in communities with high access to opportunity, which have been historically inaccessible for many communities of color. The proposal also moderates the amount of new zoning capacity in communities at high risk of displacement, which disproportionately includes communities of color. (top)

How will the proposal impact residential displacement in Seattle?

Minimizing residential displacement is a core value as we create more housing choices to meet the needs of Seattle's growing population. Therefore, the MHA rezones target more housing choices near transit to provide greater access to jobs and services, and to communities where existing residents are less vulnerable to displacement. For communities at high risk of displacement, where affordable housing options may not yet be sufficient to keep up with large-scale changes, MHA rezones are moderated to ensure that market rate development contributes to affordable housing - a key tool for addressing displacement - while minimizing the scale of change to these communities. Creating new affordable housing is one of the most critical strategies to combat residential displacement. MHA will help produce at least 6,000 rent-restricted and income-restricted homes in Seattle over the next ten years. Together with other City programs, including the Seattle Housing Levy and the Equitable Development Initiative, we hope to create the housing choices needed to help Seattle households stay in their communities. (top)

FAQ: Community Engagement and Community Planning

How did the City engage community members to develop this proposal?

The Citywide MHA proposal has been shaped by nearly two years of community engagement led by the Department of Neighborhoods (DON). By bringing an equity lens to HALA's outreach and engagement efforts, DON crafted a multi-pronged engagement strategy that included traditional and innovative approaches. Engagement activities since January 2016 include:

  • Nearly 200 community meet-ups, including presentations and discussions with existing community organizations
  • Information tables at local community events, such as Farmer's Markets and Summer Streets
  • A nine-month facilitated community focus group process with 160 community members, selected to achieve a demographic and neighborhood balance, who dedicated more than 600 cumulative hours of volunteer time to inform development of the MHA program
  • Two interactive online conversations at HALA.Consider.it, where 2,000+ community members generated comments discussing implementation options and made specific mapping recommendations, and where City staff responded to questions from community members
  • Door-to-door canvassing of over 10,000 single-family homes to try to speak with every single-family household where a zoning change is proposed.

The City brought translators and interpreters to many of these events and translated MHA materials, including mailers, videos, and social media posts, into seven languages. In addition to carrying out the above activities, staff also supported City Council-led community workshop series in late 2015 and early 2016. At these 20+ facilitated neighborhood-level community design workshops across the city, community members worked in small groups to provide comments on the draft MHA maps. Both Department and Council staff were available to answer questions. The community workshops engaged 1,500+ Seattle residents through these in-depth three-hour sessions. (top)

How did the City engage underserved communities?

Many community members, particularly lower-income households and communities of color, have been traditionally underrepresented and underserved in City processes. For that reason, the Department of Neighborhoods' engagement plan included targeted outreach to these communities. These efforts included outreach activities such as Community Conversations at Seattle Goodwill, Ethiopian Community Center, New Holly, and Filipino Community Center -- all including live translation into several different languages. City staff worked with existing community-based organizations, such as Urban League, Centerstone, and Latino Equity Network, to host lunches to discuss MHA with community members that work with vulnerable populations. City staff worked with the Capitol Hill Renter's Commission in their planning, outreach events, and educational efforts to involve renters in planning conversations for MHA.

The City also translated key materials into both people-speak and into top-tier languages to make them more accessible to diverse community members. City staff worked with Community Liaisons to provide interpretation at several of our community meetings as well as City Scoop. We also employed an ethnic media strategy to invite communities to events. We provided translation into seven languages for a mailer sent to 88,000 households, and a translation and voice over for the HALA-related informational videos. The City hired culturally appropriate door knockers to support door to door education efforts, focusing on areas with populations who speak Spanish, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. The City also worked with Univision to present the MHA program in language and answer relevant questions about affordable housing. (top)

How did community engagement shape the Citywide MHA proposal?

Many common themes emerged during the community engagement process that helped shape the Citywide MHA proposal, including the need to create more housing for people at all income levels; minimize displacement of current residents; create more opportunities to live near parks, schools, and transportation; and promote environmental sustainability, support transit use, and have space for trees. These themes helped shape the Citywide MHA legislation. Specifically, the Preferred Alternative will:

  • Establish an affordable housing program throughout the city that is consistent with and effective at reaching the goals of a more affordable Seattle
  • Use displacement as a key lens for how to make zoning changes to implement the program
  • Incorporate new design standards to support more approachable design
  • Improve Green Factor and tree protections
  • Minimize impacts in environmentally sensitive areas (top)

Where is the City doing community planning? What communities come next?

Seattle is a great place to live, work, and play. In support of maintaining our high quality of life, the City has many ongoing community planning initiatives. These activities include planning for growth and the necessary assets to support growth within a community, area planning at existing and future light rail stations, and supporting neighborhood-specific designs for new buildings. In 2016 and 2017, the City completed several community planning activities in neighborhoods including North Delridge, the Central Area, Uptown, Lake City, the University District, Ballard, Judkins Park, Pike/Pine, and Mt Baker. Currently, we're engaged in several additional community planning efforts, including in Chinatown/International District, South Lake Union, 23rd Avenue, Ballard, Capitol Hill, Uptown, Central City, and the Greater Duwamish. We're also working with several communities at high risk of displacement on the Equitable Development Initiative, including Rainier Beach, the Central Area, and Othello.

In 2018 and 2019, the City anticipates additional planning projects associated with Sound Transit 3 (ST3), including preliminary planning in communities such as N 130th St, Graham Street, and neighborhoods along the West-Seattle to Ballard ST3 alignment. For each of these community planning efforts, we are committed to significant and inclusive community engagement; tailoring the scope of work to meet specific community needs; coordinating with other agencies; and considering past, current, and future investments and planning work. (top)

How does the City decide where to do community planning?

Departments prioritize future community planning efforts based on eight criteria defined in the Comprehensive Plan: 

  1. Areas designated urban centers or villages in the Comprehensive Plan
  2. Areas with high risk of displacement
  3. Areas with low access to opportunity and distressed communities
  4. Areas experiencing significant improvements in transit service
  5. Areas experiencing a growth rate significantly higher or lower than anticipated in the Comprehensive Plan
  6. Areas identified for multiple capital investments that could benefit from coordinated planning
  7. Areas experiencing environmental justice concerns including public health or safety concerns
  8. Areas with outdated community or neighborhood plans that no longer reflect current conditions, a citywide vision of the Comprehensive Plan, or local priorities

Staff are currently evaluating communities on these criteria to determine community planning priorities for 2018-2019. More information on specific priorities will be available in early 2018. (top)

FAQ: Affordable Housing Created through MHA

What are the new affordability requirements under MHA?

Under MHA, all new commercial and multifamily development will contribute to affordable housing, either by including affordable homes as part of the project (performance option) or paying into the Seattle Office of Housing's affordable housing fund (payment option). The performance requirement for affordable housing ranges between 5% and 11% of total units and the payment contribution amount ranges between $5.00 and $32.75 per square foot, depending on neighborhood housing costs and the scale of the zoning change. The payment and performance options both offer unique benefits and are equally important to the success of MHA. With the performance option, a specified percentage of homes in new multifamily residential buildings will be reserved for income-eligible households and have restricted rents. These affordable homes will be comparable to market-rate units (e.g., size, number of bedrooms, and lease terms). With the payment option, developer contributions enable the Seattle Office of Housing to leverage other funds to produce more affordable housing overall. In addition, affordable housing funded with MHA payments is always built to Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards and can incorporate community-identified goals such as housing preservation, family-sized and family-friendly housing, wraparound support services, and more. (top)

Why not require all developers to include affordable housing in their projects?

MHA encourages a mix of performance and payment, recognizing that each offers unique benefits. The performance option creates affordable units in market-rate buildings at the time of construction. As mentioned above, the payment option allows the City to leverage other funds, which leads to far more units being created compared to the performance option. Without the payment option, the total number of affordable housing units from MHA would be reduced dramatically, making it impossible for Seattle to reach its goal of producing at least 6,000 net new rent- and income-restricted housing units over 10 years. Additionally, payments from developers allow the City to make strategic investments to address displacement, create housing in areas of high access to opportunity, serve households with the greatest need, and create housing to meet specific needs, like family-sized homes. (top)

How does the Office of Housing decide where to spend MHA payments?

The Seattle Office of Housing has a 36+ year track record of funding affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for community members in every neighborhood of Seattle. The Office of Housing will consider several locational goals when investing MHA payment dollars, including: further fair housing choice, locate affordable housing in urban centers/villages and close to transit, promote economic opportunity and address displacement, and locate new affordable housing near developments that generate MHA payment contributions. In addition, the Office of Housing may use MHA payments to help create homes that have a deeper level of affordability and are family-sized. (top)

Who can live in affordable homes created through MHA?

Currently, an average one-bedroom apartment in Seattle rents for over $1,700 per month -- an increase of 37 percent in the last five years. This amount is well out of reach for many Seattle households. MHA will help produce homes with 75-year affordability terms for individuals and families making no more than 60 percent of the area median income. In 2017, this means that an individual making less than $40,320 would pay no more than $1,008 for a one-bedroom apartment. A family of four making less than $57,600 would pay no more than $1,296 for a two-bedroom home. (top)

FAQ: Livability

Where is the "L" in Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda?

MHA will help create new affordable housing so that more people can afford to live -- and stay -- in Seattle. In tandem with MHA, the City is implementing numerous policies and investments to maintain and improve a high quality of life in Seattle communities. The 2017 Growth and Livability Report details how the City is supporting transit, infrastructure, and community assets to keep Seattle livable as the city grows. (See more at http://www.seattle.gov/opcd/livability.) In addition, MHA includes specific measures to address livability issues that we heard during community outreach. For example, the legislation strengthens landscaping requirements and tree protections in the zoning code and puts in place several new urban design requirements to improve the look and feel of new development. (top)

How will MHA impact public schools?

School capacity and funding are challenging issues for growing cities and a real concern for Seattle families. The Final EIS estimated additional student population that could result from the MHA proposal, documented the challenges that Seattle Public Schools (SPS) encounters when exceeding school capacity, and proposed mitigation measures to address these challenges within the context of the SPS planning cycle. The Final EIS identified several strategies that could help alleviate capacity and funding issues, including creation of new coordinated plans that are jointly approved by City and School District governing bodies; new partnerships between the City and SPS to identify potential new sites for schools; and the study and development of a recommendation for a schools impact fee to support the funding of public school facilities. (top)

How will MHA impact tree canopy in Seattle?

At 28 percent tree cover, Seattle has one of the densest tree canopies of any large city in the nation. However, we are still shy of our goal of 30 percent. While many factors can lead to tree loss including but not limited to redevelopment, the City also gains tree canopy as new trees are planted and others mature. The City is currently taking steps to increase tree canopy towards the 30 percent goal. This includes an Executive Order signed in October of 2017 directing City departments to strengthen enforcement and make procedural improvements for tree protection, expand compliance options, and improve tree and landscaping requirements. The EIS found that MHA could have a small impact on tree canopy of less than 0.5 percent citywide due to rezones that would allow for housing to cover larger portions of some lots. However, tree canopy gains anticipated through broader City actions to protect and grow trees would more than make up for the impact. Other mitigations for potential tree loss are proposed along with MHA including a new tree planting requirement in the Residential Small Lot (RSL) zone, and adjustments to the green factor landscaping standard to give greater weight to protection and planting of large tree species. (top)

What will MHA mean for parking in my neighborhood?

During community engagement on MHA, we heard a lot of concerns about the availability of parking in urban villages. Currently, new residential buildings in urban villages are not required to include parking, although most projects do include parking due to market demands. While MHA will not change parking requirements, the City is considering several additional measures to improve access to on-street and off-street parking in neighborhoods. In 2018, the City Council will consider proposals to allow flexible use of underutilized off-street parking and reforms to restricted parking zones in communities across the city. (top)

What will MHA mean for the design of buildings?

During community engagement on MHA, we heard some concerns about the look of new buildings and concerns that MHA will spur conversion of smaller-scale housing to larger buildings. The Citywide MHA proposal and recent changes to Design Review process help address these concerns. The Citywide MHA legislation has new development standards, such as upper-level setback requirements, to improve urban design. New Design Review processes allow for up-front community engagement for projects going through Design Review and require that properties rezoned through MHA from single-family to lowrise development be subject to Design Review for the five years following the zoning changes. Finally, the City is engaged with several communities across the city to develop neighborhood-specific design guidelines for new development. (top)

FAQ: What does it mean if my property is rezoned?

What will an MHA rezone mean for me if I do not want to redevelop my property?

A rezone changes what may be built on a property, but it does not require that any redevelopment occur. There are structures throughout the city that do not correspond to their current zoning -- such as single-family homes on properties zoned for midrise buildings, or multifamily apartments on properties zoned for single-family. If your property is rezoned through MHA, you do not need to change the existing structure or use of your property. (top)

What will an MHA rezone mean for me if I do want to redevelop my property?

If you want to redevelop your property, the MHA rezone will increase your options for what you can build there. If you are in a single-family house now, the MHA rezone might mean that you can legally convert your house into a duplex or add a secondary unit on your property. In exchange for this new flexibility, MHA establishes new affordability requirements. Depending on the size of your property and nature of your redevelopment, you may have the option of creating new rent- and income-restricted homes as a part of your project, or contributing a per-square-foot fee to support affordable housing. (top)

What will the MHA rezone mean for my property taxes?

The King County Assessor determines property taxes by multiplying a citywide tax rate by a property's assessed value. The assessed value is essentially the Assessor's estimate of the amount for which a property could sell. If the Assessor's determines in the future that the value of additional development capacity, along with the cost of MHA requirements, has significantly increased the overall value of your property, then your property taxes would go up as well. Economic analysis suggests that value of the additional capacity and the cost of MHA generally offset each other on most sites, but it is possible that value could increase in some cases. This change would not, however, happen automatically when a zoning change occurs. A property's assessed value increases only if evidence shows the value of properties with similar zoning and location has increased.

Property taxes, excluding publicly approved levies, are also subject to regulations that limit the total annual increase in taxes within a city to one percent, with some limited exceptions. For example, if all properties in Seattle increased in value by exactly 10 percent, the tax rate would have to decrease so that the total property taxes collected go up by only one percent. As MHA is proposed to be implemented citywide, this rule will limit the potential increase in property taxes. Depending on their income levels, senior citizens and people with disabilities are also eligible for exemption from paying some property taxes. More information is available at the King County website. (top)

What is Residential Small Lot (RSL) zoning, and what is allowed there?

The Citywide MHA proposes rezones of 768 acres of single-family-zoned properties to Residential Small Lot (RSL). RSL zoning encourages compact homes similar in scale to single-family areas, such as duplexes, cottage housing, and rowhouses. The Citywide MHA proposal includes several changes to RSL in response to community engagement and concerns we heard about current redevelopment in single-family zones. RSL includes a floor area exemption to encourage preservation of an existing single-family home on a lot while adding a second or third housing unit. RSL would also limit homes to a maximum of 2,200 square feet to discourage homes that would be out of scale with existing neighborhoods. Finally, RSL would have a new tree planting requirement for new development that is even stronger than tree requirements in single-family zones today.  (top)

MHA Urban Design and Neighborhood Character Study

This report provides urban design analysis of the potential zoning changes to implement MHA. We review a range of representative development prototypes in various multifamily and commercial zones. The prototypes consider the design and scale of new development with the draft MHA capacity increases. We summarize and discuss draft zoning standards.

MHA Affordable Housing Production Model Summary

This summarizes the approach and assumptions we used in our initial estimates of affordable housing production through MHA. The model's primary purpose was to inform policy discussions prior to MHA implementation. We also estimate growth and affordable housing production in our citywide MHA environmental impact statement.

MHA Economic Analysis

We have prepared an economic feasibility analysis to inform decisions about zoning changes to implement MHA. The analysis reviews a range of representative development prototypes in various multifamily and commercial zones. The prototypes consider the feasibility of new development with the proposed MHA affordable housing requirements and the proposed development capacity increases.