Councilmember Johnson’s Statement on Council’s South Lake Union, Downtown Rezone Vote

Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle), chair of the Council’s Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee, issued the following statement following Council’s adoption (9-0) of the Downtown and South Lake Union neighborhood-wide rezones:

“I’m thankful to my colleagues today for approving the South Lake Union and Downtown rezone, which will result in more affordable housing opportunities for thousands of Seattle’s lower- and middle-income workers.  By adopting the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program in these neighborhoods, we will be able to deliver 2,100 affordable homes over the next ten years, a critical component needed to meet our goal of 20,000 affordable homes. For reference, the 2016 voter-approved Housing Levy will create and preserve a roughly equivalent amount of affordable housing (approximately 2,150 affordable apartments).

“Downtown and South Lake Union are two of our fastest-growing neighborhoods in our city, and we need to take advantage of that growth by ensuring developers that aren’t required to build affordable housing to opt-in to this mandatory program.  These projects, which are permitted but haven’t yet started construction will be asked to opt in to the MHA program so we can create more funding in the short term for affordable housing.

“As someone with three kids under 7, it is a personal priority for me that we build more family-sized housing.  For that reason, council decided to grant additional height if a building includes more than 10 three-bedroom units.  More than ever before families are choosing to live downtown and we need to continue to build housing to respond to that increased demand. Additionally, we continued to meet our environmental and transportation goals through this legislation, by adding an incentive to new residential projects to work with their residents to live car less or car free.

“Throughout this process, I’ve appreciated my colleagues’ thoughtfulness and engagement.  The MHA program is incredibly complex and, like all programs, constrained by legal and economic considerations. We’ll have an opportunity to review how the program and affordable housing production has progressed in 2018.  It’s essential we craft a successful program that meets our affordable and market-rate housing goals, that is consistent with our long-term land use objectives, is legally defensible, and complements our full range strategies to address our housing affordability crisis.

“I’m thankful for the unanimous vote from my colleagues to provide opportunities for people making less than $40,000 year (< 60% Area Median Income).  The Downtown and South Lake Union neighborhoods will be all-the-stronger for it.”

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