Incentive Zoning for Affordable Housing

In certain zones, incentive zoning allows commercial and residential developers to achieve additional development capacity when they provide for affordable housing. Chapter 23.58A and Chapter 23.49 of the Land Use Code, depending on the location of the development seeking extra floor area, provide the regulatory framework for incentive zoning.

In 2015, the City approved a Director's Rule that outlines the conditions by which affordable housing provided to satisfy requirements for bonus non-residential floor area according to SMC 23.49.012 may also use certain public subsidies and tax incentives.

Questions regarding the following should be directed to Prithy Korathu, Community Development Specialist, Office of Housing,, 206-684-0362:

  • Drafting and execution of affordable housing agreements (Performance option)
  • Arrangement for payment of affordable housing contributions (Payment option)

For Incentive Zoning projects where affordable units are located on-site, owners/developers are required to implement an Affordable Marketing Plan. A signed Letter of Intent to Implement Affirmative Marketing Plan must be submitted to the Office of Housing in conjunction with the draft affordable housing agreement. Housing agreements will not be approved without a signed Letter of Intent. Additional information can be found on the Affirmative Marketing requirements info sheet.

Questions regarding Affirmative Marketing requirements should be directed to Stephanie Velasco ( at 206.256.5359.

All questions related to Code requirements and extra/bonus floor area calculations should be directed to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) Zoning Reviewer assigned to the project. If the site has not been assigned a zoning reviewer, direct inquiries to Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections Ask Us A Question or call Ask Us at (206) 684-8850.

View a map to see where Incentive Zoning payments have been used to create affordable housing.

Disclaimer: The information on this webpage is for summary purposes only. Refer to SMC Title 23 for all options and requirements.

Residential floor area above the base height and/or base floor area ratio (FAR) may be achieved as an incentive to provide for affordable housing. Generally, residential developers opting to seek additional floor area in incentive zoning-eligible zones with maximum height limits 85 feet or less must dedicate a percentage of extra/bonus residential floor area as rental housing affordable to households with incomes up to 80% of the area median income (AMI). In certain zones, developers may make a cash contribution to the City to help fund affordable housing for workers in households with incomes primarily ≤ 80% of area median income (AMI). This incentive is available in midrise and high-rise zones in several neighborhoods.

Commercial floor area above the base floor area ratio (FAR) may be achieved as an incentive to provide for affordable housing and childcare facilities. Developers can either include the affordable housing and/or childcare facility as part of their project or make a cash contribution to the City to fund affordable housing and construction of new childcare centers. The benefits primarily serve Seattle's lower-wage workers with household incomes no higher than 80% of area median income.

n certain zones commercial developers may purchase Housing Transferable Development Rights (TDR) from the owner of Housing TDR sending site approved by the City of Seattle. This option helps Seattle maintain a more variable scale of buildings in Downtown and South Downtown by allowing density to be moved from one site to another. The proceeds of TDR sales are used for preservation and recapitalization of existing low-income housing.

Questions related to TDR should be directed to Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections Ask Us A Question or call Ask Us at (206) 684-8850.