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City Evaluates Zoning Changes for Mandatory Housing Affordability

Today the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that studies three alternatives for zoning changes needed to implement Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) in Seattle’s urban villages and other commercial and multifamily residential zones across the city.

MHA helps ensure that as Seattle grows, development supports affordable housing for low-income families and individuals by either building rent-restricted homes on-site or making a payment to the Seattle Office of Housing. To implement MHA, the City would grant additional development capacity to allow for construction of more market-rate housing and commercial space.

“Implementing MHA is one of many actions the City is proposing to address housing affordability,” said Sam Assefa, director of OPCD. “We look forward to community input on the DEIS, especially on our analysis of impacts resulting from MHA implementation. Your feedback will help us finalize our recommendation on how to guide growth with additional affordable housing, while working to reduce displacement risks as Seattle grows.”

Seattle is currently the fastest growing large city in the United States. The average rent for a Seattle two-bedroom, one-bath apartment is $1,863. The average rent in Seattle has increased 55 percent since 2010. Twenty percent of Seattle renters now spend more than half their income on housing.

The DEIS issued today examines the potential effects of zoning changes that will implement MHA in multifamily and commercial zones in Seattle, areas currently zoned Single Family Residential in existing urban villages, and in urban village expansion areas identified in the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

The three alternatives considered in the DEIS include:

  1. “No Action” that does not implement MHA requirements on new development, but maintains current zoning and building heights as Seattle grows.
  2. Changing zoning to guide additional housing and job growth to urban villages in a similar pattern as the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan, but without specifically considering displacement risk or access to opportunity.
  3. Continuing the urban village strategy, but varying zoning changes and development capacity based on each urban village’s relative level of displacement risk and access to opportunity, as identified in the Seattle 2035 Growth and Equity Analysis.

Both action alternatives would generate at least 5500 new affordable homes from development in the study area over 20 years. The No Action alternative, however, would generate only about 200 additional affordable homes in the study area through the City’s existing Incentive Zoning program. The Draft EIS identifies environmental impacts and mitigation measures for each alternative.

You can learn more and provide your feedback on the Draft EIS through July 23 at

OPCD will host an open house and public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on June 29 in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at Seattle City Hall. The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the alternatives, ask questions and provide public comment.

The City’s Final EIS and a preferred alternative will be developed based on community comments received to date and input on the three alternatives in the DEIS. OPCD expects to complete the Final EIS of the preferred alternative in September before transmitting a proposal to the Seattle City Council for consideration.

MHA was a key recommendation of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee. In 2015 and 2016, Mayor Ed Murray proposed the ordinances that established the framework for MHA, which the City Council adopted unanimously.

The City Council has already implemented MHA in the U District, Downtown, and South Lake Union. The Council is currently considering MHA legislation for the Chinatown-International District and three key intersections along 23rd Ave in the Central Area. Legislation to implement MHA in Uptown will be considered separately.

OPCD, the Department of Neighborhoods, and the Office of Housing have held more than 165 public meetings, open houses and group discussions on implementing MHA throughout Seattle’s urban villages. From February 2016 to October 2016, community focus groups, HALA open houses, online surveys, and neighborhood pop-ups worked to inform principles to help guide the implementation of MHA. Draft maps for implementing MHA in Seattle’s urban villages have been the focus of open houses and community feedback since October 2016.