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Councilmember Strauss Responds to Community and Religious Leaders, Passes Legislation to Ease Development of Affordable Housing on Church Properties

Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle), Chair of the City’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, celebrated the passage by the City Council of C.B. 120157, which will allow more churches and religious organizations to build affordable housing. 

In June, the City Council adopted C.B. 120081, which implemented a new state law that allows for affordable housing development to exceed zoning restrictions on properties owned or controlled by religious organizations. Under the new ordinance, affordable housing developments can be one to six stories higher, depending on location, allowing for the creation of more desperately needed affordable housing in Seattle. 

Following passage of C.B. 120081, many community groups shared their concern with an amendment the Council adopted to restrict the program beyond state requirements. The amendment required projects to be affordable to households earning up to 60% of area median income (AMI), rather than the 80% AMI required by the state. Community groups shared that this more burdensome requirement would prevent many previously planned affordable housing projects from being built, while also depriving historic churches of a vital revenue source to maintain social services. 

Councilmember Strauss worked with Mayor Durkan and his colleagues on the City Council to introduce C.B. 120157 to address these weaknesses in the original legislation. Passage of the legislation today restores the 80% AMI requirement which will help preserve churches and create more affordable housing in Seattle. 

“This legislation gives churches the flexibility they need to build affordable housing on their property. It removes the City from the role of micromanaging how churches should serve their communities and congregations,” said Councilmember Strauss. “Throughout this process, community members have reminded me of the particular importance of the Black church, which has historically been the largest land owner and service provider for the Black community. This legislation allows churches to continue in that legacy of service without City bureaucracy getting in the way.” 

“Since June, I have had an opportunity to learn more directly from several impacted leaders of local Black churches about why this bill is needed with the flexibility to address the housing needs of people whose income is up to 80% of the area median income,” said Council President M. Lorena González. “I am proud to vote in support of legislation that will facilitate our Black churches to fight displacement and build community. I respect their request for self-determination as we work, together, towards affordable housing that meets the diverse needs of our city.” 

“I want to thank Councilmember Dan Strauss for his courageous and committed effort to introduce this corrective bill,” said Donald King, President and CEO of the Nehemiah Initiative Seattle, which works with historically Black churches to develop affordable housing on underused property while maintaining financial strength. “It gives us all a tool to enable our Black churches with the support and incentive they need to develop their underutilized properties for affordable housing in a financially feasible manner.” 

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