“The City of Seattle seeks to address the need for affordable housing, and has proposed to do so by implementing MHA legislation. MHA will require new development proposals to include affordable housing with rent-restrictions and/or income-restrictions as part of the proposed development, or to contribute to a City fund for affordable housing.” *
A year ago, the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity (SCALE) appealed the environmental review of the city’s plan to upzone the Urban Villages on the basis that the environmental review was inadequate. The groups appealing the environmental review said the MHA upzones could make Seattle “less affordable” by spurring too much redevelopment and could create parking, pollution and other problems. They described the review as inadequate, arguing throughout 55 points, that the impacts should be studied neighborhood by neighborhood.
The City’s MHA plan will finally proceed after the city’s administrative-law judge Ryan Vancil ruled on Wednesday Nov. 21st that the review was adequate, except for the plan’s impacts on historical sites, which will need to be completed. Other parts of the review, including economics, aesthetics, traffic and tree canopy were sufficient.
This ruling moves the City Council closer to being able to approve the legislation enacting the upzones in Urban Villages through Seattle. The City Council may take up the legislation in February or March, if the historic site analysis is completed by then.
Under the MHA plan, developers would need to devote 5 to 11 percent of their projects to affordable housing or pay $5 to $32.75 per square foot into a city fund that would be used to help nonprofits build affordable housing elsewhere in Seattle.
The upzones would allow developers to build one or several stories higher than they can now. All blocks now zoned for apartments and commercial buildings would be affected, along with 6 percent of lots currently zoned for single-family houses.
MHA is expected to generate at least 6,000 new rent-restricted homes for low-income people over the next decade. A study by the Office of Planning and Community Development claims to show the impact of litigation delay, which began in Nov. 2017: the loss of between 653 and 717 units of low-income affordable housing.
While the “appellants witnesses clearly established that Seattle has extensive and unique historical resources” the FEIS acknowledged that historic character will be impacted as “potential decreases to the historic fabric of a neighborhood if historic buildings are redeveloped or demolished and new buildings are constructed, that are not architecturally sympathetic to the existing historic characteristics of a neighborhood. As a neighborhood’s historic fabric decreases, it is less likely to meet local and federal eligibility criteria for consideration as a historic district.” * findings and decision of the hearing examiner for the city of seattle
Council member Rob Johnson in a statement on Wednesday said it was one of the longest appeals in Seattle’s history, adding that the appeal had already cost the city $87 million worth of affordable housing funds. “With this legislation, we have an opportunity to allow for more desperately needed housing in urban village neighborhoods across our city, while requiring that all new development in those areas provide affordable housing,” Johnson said.