In 2015, the Mayor challenged a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee to create a plan to generate a net increase of 50,000 units of housing – 20,000 units of affordable housing and 30,000 new units of market rate housing – over the next ten years. The committee developed more than 60 recommendations, recognizing that the solution to housing affordability must be a multipronged approach. Now the City is taking steps to put the HALA recommendations into action.
One of the City’s key upcoming actions is a renewal and expansion of the Seattle Housing Levy. Since 1981 the Housing Levy has helped create over 12,500 units of affordable housing for low-income households. The 2009 Seattle Housing Levy expires at the end of 2016, and Mayor Murray has proposed renewing and expanding the levy to provide $290 million over seven years for affordable housing. Voters will have a chance to renew the Housing Levy on the ballot in August. The first public hearing about the Housing Levy before City Council is April 4 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Another important part of HALA is a new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program. MHA would require all new multifamily and commercial development to either include affordable housing in new development or pay an in-lieu fee to support affordable housing. Housing produced through MHA would serve households who earn $38,000 or less for a single person, and $54,000 or less for a family of four. In exchange for the new affordable housing requirement, some additional development capacity would be added, such as an increase in the amount of height or floor area allowed by zoning. This approach is consistent with a state-approved program used by other cities.
Launching the new MHA program takes two steps:
- The first step is framework legislation to set up the basic rules and guidelines. A framework for commercial development was adopted by City Council last October, and a framework for residential development will be reviewed by City Council in May. But the frameworks won’t start generating affordable housing yet.
- The program starts with the second step: creating affordable housing when MHA zoning changes are made. New affordable housing is required when projects are developed under new MHA zones.
The first area to see MHA zoning changes will be downtown and South Lake Union. In the summer of 2016, we will forward MHA zoning changes for downtown and South Lake Union that would allow one or two additional stories on new buildings, or slightly wider towers. At that time the requirement to include a percentage of affordable housing in new buildings or to pay a per-square-foot fee for housing will kick in. Similar zoning changes in other areas of the city won’t be made until 2017 after extensive community input.
Hearing from the community is a key part of putting HALA into action. We want to hear from community members across the City about housing and livability. One of the ways we’re doing this is community focus groups. Over 160 community members representing every neighborhood across the city have been invited to join us for a series of detailed discussions over the next 8 months. Focus group members include renters and homeowners, and longtime community activists alongside first time volunteers. We’re also hosting large citywide meetings and events about HALA. The next citywide public event is a Livability Night Out at MOHAI in South Lake Union on April 19 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Stop by to hear about how HALA improves livability in addition to housing affordability.
For more information about HALA visit the website at www.seattle.gov/hala .