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Seattle’s recent housing construction focused in urban villages

Over the last 18 months, Seattle has added more than 10,000 new homes, with 85 percent of all housing construction occurring inside the city’s urban centers and urban villages, according to recent permitting and construction data published in the Urban Center / Village Growth Report. Seattle’s urban villages are identified in the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan as the places to guide future population growth, a policy established in 1994. The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) has found that recent housing growth is becoming even more focused in Seattle’s densest neighborhood centers.

“Seattle’s urban villages are becoming even more vibrant, with new housing, retail businesses and other resources that support high quality-of-life,” said OPCD Director Sam Assefa. “Because these neighborhoods are closer to job centers and have good access to frequent transit, more people have the option to avoid a long commute and reduce their dependence on cars. We continue to implement Mandatory Housing Affordability in more urban villages, which over the next decade will support at least 6000 new affordable homes in these neighborhoods for thousands of low-income households.”

In 1994, the City Council approved Seattle’s first Comprehensive Plan prepared under the state Growth Management Act, including the urban village strategy which directs housing growth to neighborhoods with more transit options. That strategy has been effective in locating more than 75 percent of new housing in urban villages and urban centers over the past two decades.

In recent months, an even greater share of new homes is being built in urban villages. Since January 2016, Seattle has added 10,123 net new housing units including apartments, townhouses, and single-family houses, with 8,554 of the new homes built inside urban villages and 1,569 new homes added outside urban villages during that period.

In the past 18 months, half of all new housing in Seattle has been built in six areas experiencing the most growth:

  • South Lake Union (1322 new homes constructed)
  • Belltown (942)
  • Pike/Pine Corridor (922)
  • Ballard (776)
  • University District Northwest (553)
  • Fremont (471)


Looking ahead to future development, buildings containing 21,349 homes have received permits but have not yet been completed. More than 82 percent of these homes will be located within urban villages close to jobs, commercial areas, and transit services. The areas with the most homes in the pipeline are:

  • South Lake Union (3670 units permitted)
  • Denny Triangle (1612)
  • Belltown (1197)
  • First Hill (1192)


Seattle’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program requires that all new multi-family residential and commercial development contribute to affordable housing, either by including rent-restricted homes or making a payment to the City’s fund to support affordable housing. To put MHA into effect, the City adds development capacity and expanded housing choices. MHA has already been implemented in Downtown, South Lake Union, the University District, Chinatown-International District, and along 23rd Ave in the Central Area. The City Council is currently considering zoning changes necessary to implement MHA in Uptown.

Seattle is the fastest growing large city in America, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The Washington Office of Financial Management reports that Seattle added nearly 27,000 net new residents between April 2016 and April 2017, more than the rest of King County combined.