Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) announced today that, in the past month, developers from seven already-permitted building construction projects have begun the process to opt-in to the new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program in Downtown and South Lake Union. Contingent on Department approval, those projects could result in a staff-estimated $25 million of payments for affordable housing, which could result in 320 new affordable units (after MHA funds are leveraged with other dollars). By taking advantage of the granted additional height or floor area, in exchange, developers will pay more toward affordable housing production than they otherwise would have.
“What better way for us to celebrate Affordable Housing Week than to recognize these kinds of early successes indicating great momentum for the MHA program,” said Councilmember Johnson. “Today I’ve asked our land use department to prioritize getting these seven projects opted into the MHA program, and I also call on the 10 projects identified as good candidates to opt in to help us meet our ambitious and critical goals.”
If all qualifying projects chose to opt-in to MHA, it could generate an estimated $40 million for affordable housing and over 550 affordable units (assuming payments are leveraged with other dollars).
This opt-in option came about because, in April, Councilmember Johnson amended Ordinance 125291, which rezoned parts of the Downtown and South Lake Union Urban Center to implement the MHA Program to allow already-permitted projects in South Lake Union and Downtown the choice to ‘opt-in’ to the MHA program. Following Council approval of upzones in the U District, South Lake Union and Downtown, new projects in those neighborhoods are required to either produce affordable housing units in their buildings or pay into a fund that developers can utilize to create new affordable units elsewhere. Projects that had already submitted permits prior to implementation of the upzones are not required to participate in the MHA program.
“Barely weeks into the implementation of MHA in the U District and Downtown, we are already seeing major contributions to affordable housing,” said Mayor Murray.
“These first projects will result in dozens of affordable homes being built, increasing to thousands as we expand the MHA program across the city. For the first time, developers are required to contribute to affordable housing and today’s announcement shows the kind of partnership that will help keep Seattle affordable.”
Throughout the city, developers are looking for ways to participate in the MHA program.
Eran Fields, developer of Fields Holdings said, “The U District is uniquely positioned to become a vibrant, dynamic and transit oriented community and neighborhood. The combination of the existing neighborhood and University of Washington’s rapid growth will place enormous pressure on housing and services for its residents and the only way to address such demand is via height, increased density and public transportation.
Fields added, “Dense urban development must be coupled with public benefits such as affordable and family friendly housing, public open spaces and streetscaping while stimulating new and varied housing choices and neighborhood serving retail. The new zoning embraces these requirements and responsibilities and I look forward to redeveloping and converting an auto-oriented site and use into a building that defers to the values and vision of this newly adopted progressive zoning.”
MHA requires that units be kept affordable for the next 50 years for people making less than 60% AMI. 60% AMI for a family of four in Seattle is currently $57,600.
Johnson made today’s announcement at 4700 Brooklyn Ave NE in Seattle’s University District neighborhood, where Fields Holdings is developing a new project. The developer chose to cancel their existing permit and file a new permit to take advantage of MHA. Johnson said, “It is not lost on me that this site, a former gas station, represents an unsustainable, car-dependent past. This new project represents our future vision for this city – an affordable, green and vibrant future for Seattle and all of its current and future residents. And that is certainly something to celebrate.”