Seattle Enacts Mandatory Housing Affordability

After a years-long process, the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation was passed by the Seattle City Council and signed by Mayor Durkan on March 20.

The ordinance will implement MHA in Seattle’s 27 urban villages and all other commercial and multifamily residential areas. All urban villages and multifamily residential and commercial zones will see zoning changes, allowing slightly larger or taller buildings. Additional development capacity will be focused near transit centers.

With MHA, developers have two options when creating new buildings:

  • The performance option includes affordable housing in the development;
  • The payment option allows developers to contribute to the Seattle Office of Housing to support the development of affordable housing.

MHA requirements vary based on housing costs in each area of the city and the scale of the zoning change, with higher MHA requirements in areas with higher housing costs and larger zoning changes. With the performance option, between 5 percent and 11 percent of homes in new multifamily residential buildings are reserved for low-income households. With the payment option, development will contribute between $5.00 and $32.75 per square foot.

AIA Seattle engaged in this process from the beginning, with countless members attending meetings, offering comments, meeting with councilmembers and attending public hearings to testify in person.

Now the city ­– and AIA along with it – will pivot to other issues related to housing affordability and ways to address missing middle housing. These will include work around Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and efforts to allow for gentle density in single family zones (think duplexes and triplexes).

If you would like to offer comments on where AIA Seattle should go from here, please share them with Kirsten Smith. If you would like to be involved in these discussions, consider joining our Housing Task Force.

March 2019