Seattle Mayor and Council are moving forward with legislation that would add a projected 6,000 units of affordable housing to Seattle over the next 10 years through implementing a Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program. This kind of inclusionary zoning has been something many housing and neighborhood planning activists have long argued for. While not a silver bullet solution to housing affordability, it is a way to make up for displacement created by redevelopment. Inclusionary zoning has been successfully implemented in other jurisdictions nationally and within in our state.
Basically, the proposal is that new development on multifamily and neighborhood commercial properties will be allowed to be built larger and higher and, whether they build higher or not, will have to contribute affordable units or fees in lieu of development of affordable housing. The properties included will have an (M) suffix on the zoning, and some will be further up zoned. This zoning change will be applied throughout the city, including all existing multifamily and commercial properties, as well as existing and proposed expanded Urban Villages.
Here is our area, captured from the HALA citywide map, where everything in color will be up zoned in order to establish the requirement that new development in those areas contribute to affordable housing. If you live in or near any of those areas, and have not been following the HALA MHA proposal, this is your heads up.
Since the changes are citywide, and have costs to the developers associated with them, it’s expected that the rate of change will be progressive as opposed to abrupt. However, when and if areas do transition, part of that new development will include affordable housing. Today we see new development — especially in “hot” areas — without this important equitable housing component of community development.
Your participation is requested
The details are still being worked out in a public discussion that has been going on for over a year. A citywide focus group of people from all the Urban Villages meeting at city hall just wrapped up their work, and a number of HALA Open House events were held throughout the city. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which addresses environmental, infrastructural, and socio-economic impacts, is due to be released in May. Councilmember Herbold, in particular, has been active in introducing amendments to preserve legacy small businesses and to more specifically assess displacement risk versus return of affordable housing added.
Right now, we are in a phase where council budgeted for and is hosting design workshops where the basic plan is presented and then people split up into tables and walk through the mapping and proposals together to share their thoughts about community assets, the zoning in specific areas, what impacts are they concerned about in their neighborhood, and providing the on-the-ground realities that help shape the details of the plan. The sessions are Urban Village focused. The evening of February 28 at Miller Community Center will be the nearest council hosted session for us who are in the northernmost part of the Central Area and northeast part of the East District Council and District 3 to participate in this kind of face-to-face discussion.
Madison-Miller Urban Village
Community Design Workshop
Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 6 – 9 pm
Miller Community Center
330 19th Ave. E.
RSVP is strongly encouraged. Due to the meeting format, space in facilitated work groups is limited. The format of the workshops is an opening overview presentation about HALA, Urban Villages, and the Mandatory Housing Affordability program followed by small group conversations. Childcare, snacks, and drinks will be provided at event. To RSVP or ask questions about the event, please contact Spencer Williams at Spencer.Williams@seattle.gov or by phone at (206) 384-2709.
I attended the session for the 23rd Ave Union-Jackson Urban Village. People were pretty prepared, and that community had just happened to have spent the last three years already doing planning work, even though attendance did not reflect that fact. Each table came up with a list of (amazingly consistent between all the tables) location-specific nuances and proposed adjustments. We had a very good facilitator who knew the neighborhood and drew people out. A scribe writes down the points made, so clear statements and questions are best. It’s important to note that these sessions are council sponsored, so the notes are consolidated and provided to City Council.
Whether you can attend the session or not, your feedback is still needed by June 30
The draft Environmental Impact Statement will be released in mid-May, which is another important point for feedback because it is supposed to identify the expected impacts to our neighborhoods. Public input to both the draft EIS and the zoning proposal is to be wrapped up by the end of June. Then, the final EIS and the final mapping proposal are expected to be released by the end of summer, and transmitted to city council for action. That is where the process, heavily invested in by both the mayor and council, wraps up. Obviously, there are opportunities for council to amend, and that can happen if council members support well-thought-out counter proposals or feel that persistent issues are not resolved in the legislation as submitted, but the city’s hope is that the package reflects what the residents expect.
All of the background materials are here, with a calendar of events and sign-up to receive the updates by email. The HALA Consider It site is still taking comments and that is a great way to be involved. Consider It also has detailed maps of each Urban Village and a video with instructions on how to read the proposed changes on the maps. There are survey questions about the proposal and folks are encouraged to comment.
The HALA team told me many times that they welcome any input people have and have responded to any emails that I send to them. Comments and questions can be emailed to HALAinfo@seattle.gov. If people want to call and ask questions, the city is staffing a HALA hotline at 206.743.6612. Please keep checking the HALA Calendar, as meetings and outreach events are still being added.