Councilmember Alex Pedersen passed legislation through a Council committee that will increase the space for low-income housing by creatively rerouting a public alley in the heart of the University District. There is currently a tiny house village on the site, so this proposal will continue to serve our lowest-income residents by creating permanent homes.
SEATTLE – The Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee passed today legislation sponsored by Councilmember Alex Pedersen, which will increase the space for low-income housing by creatively rerouting a public alley in the heart of the University District. Centrally located on NE 45th Street between Roosevelt Way and 11th Avenue NE, the alley currently splits two parcels that, when combined by the legislation, will enable dozens of additional housing units permanently available to low-income residents. Under an innovative arrangement crafted by Councilmember Pedersen in 2021, Sound Transit has been generously leasing their land to the City for a temporary 35-unit Tiny Home Village with the ultimate goal of building a new, high-density transit-oriented development that includes several permanent units for extremely low-income people. Today’s legislation advances that goal.
“I am eager to create additional permanent low-income housing in my district so that more people in need have a safe place to call home, including many who have been experiencing homelessness,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen. “By creatively optimizing our public infrastructure to reconfigure this public alley, we are enabling the construction of many more units affordable to extremely low-income people at this centrally located intersection, where future residents can walk to jobs, education, health care, and, of course, public mass transit, including Sound Transit’s U District Station. After the space has served approximately 35 residents of a Tiny Home Village for several years, it should serve as a permanent home for dozens of additional low-income residents, including housing-ready individuals who have experienced homelessness (at 0% to 30% of the area median income). I’m grateful to have partners in Sound Transit and our City’s Office of Housing that understand it’s imperative to create as much housing as possible for extremely low-income people, so we can finally move beyond the homelessness crisis toward a more sustainable city for everyone.”
The Future Project:
Image from Sound Transit’s presentation to Pedersen’s City Council Committee
At the August 15, 2023 committee meeting, Sound Transit and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented concepts for developing the centrally located site to maximize low-income housing, thanks to the reconfiguration and partial vacation of the southern tip of the public alley. The street-level space of the future project is likely to contain active uses that can benefit both residents and neighbors, such as childcare and/or retail space. Key takeaways from this presentation include:
- The new permanent housing can include more than 200 units, thanks to Pedersen’s legislation to vacate and reconfigure the key portion of the alley, compared to approximately 100 units without the legislation.
- The project is no longer limited to a mid-rise building, thanks to the alley vacation.
- There will be another round of public engagement led by the future developer to determine the final public benefits package and to provide other input on the ambitious project.
On September 5, 2023, the Seattle City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on Clerk File 314496. After the Clerk File is approved, the City’s Office of Housing and Sound Transit will issue their Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify experienced affordable housing developers interested in constructing the low-income housing project. Once a qualified developer is selected that agrees to maximize low-income housing on the site, they will return to the City Council to finalize the public benefits package. Construction is expected to start by 2025, and the site is expected to host the Tiny Home Village until that time.
For more about the Tiny Home Village since 2021, which continues to be managed by the Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI), see Councilmember Pedersen’s blog: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/new-tiny-home-village-to-help-people-experiencing-homelessness-in-our-district-4
As local governments work with neighborhoods, low-income housing providers, environmentalists, and other stakeholders to optimize public spaces to address the homelessness emergency, the climate crisis, and other public policy priorities, reconfiguring public streets, alleys, and other under-utilized space can help to address the current scarcity of affordable land parcels.