Housing affordability continues to be on many people’s minds as we see headline after headline about rising home prices, rising rents, and an increase in our homeless population. While we see many things in our community changing, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to each other and to rolling up our sleeves and solving these big issues.
That is why in August of this year we voted overwhelmingly to renew the Seattle Housing Levy. Sustaining programs that provide home ownership opportunities and creating more housing for those most in need is a top priority. What we also know is that the Seattle Housing Levy, while a great tool, cannot do all that is needed to address the growing need for more affordable housing.
The City of Seattle has been hard at work passing tenant protections, removing barriers to housing for vulnerable populations, and working in coalitions in Olympia to change state law and provide more funding. You can check all that out at Seattle.gov/HALA.
What we want to talk about today is our Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program, which we have spent much of the year drafting for City Council’s review and passage. This new program will, for the first time in our City’s history, require new development in Seattle’s most dense areas to contribute to affordable housing. This contribution is based on the City providing more capacity (allowing buildings to be taller or wider) in exchange for a developer to either build new affordable units or pay a fee to the Office of Housing (the same stewards of our Housing Levy dollars).
We are about halfway through the process of putting this program to work. We recently passed legislation that allows this program to exist in any area of the city where we make zoning changes. The next step is to actually make the zoning changes, and the City recently released a set of proposed zoning maps that targets these changes in our most dense areas of the city. These mapped proposals have been shaped by a nearly year-long community engagement process in which residents were asked how they would like to see their neighborhoods change. From that process, we developed a set of principles to guide the design of zoning changes.
We understand that zoning is one of the more complex tools used to harness the growth in Seattle, so we created this video to help guide you through using the maps.
Review the proposed zoning maps and tell us what’s working and what isn’t.
Your feedback will help the City find appropriate ways to increase the amount of both affordable AND market rate housing in our growth areas.