Seattle’s City Council Takes a New Look at Policy for Affordable Housing on Property Owned by Religious Organizations

Earlier this year, in compliance with state legislation (HB 1377) passed in 2019, the Seattle City Council passed and Mayor Jenny Durkan signed legislation to allow religious institutions to access additional development capacity when they redevelop their property for long-term rent- and income-restricted affordable housing.

The state law requires such projects to target households at a maximum of 80% AMI (area mean income), but it allows local governments to lower that threshold. The City Council passed an amendment to the bill that lowered the threshold to 60% AMI – so that projects housing households at 61-80% AMI would not receive the development bonuses.

Concerns by Black Churches
Donald King FAIA and the UW’s Renée Chang FAIA publicly argued that this change eliminates the ability of the Black churches that are working with the Nehemiah Initiative to utilize the program because projects at 60% AMI are so financially perilous that only large developers can secure the major grants and federal tax grants to develop them.

Thanks to strong outreach by Donald and a coalition of churches and other organizations, the Council is taking the unprecedented step of considering legislation to return to the original policy of 80% AMI. That legislation is up for a vote by the full Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 27.

Outreach to Councilmembers Needed
If you live in Seattle, please consider sending an email to your councilmember asking them to support this legislation. You can send a separate email to Councilmembers Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda, who represent the entire city, or just copy them on the email to your district councilmember.

Note that Councilmembers Mosqueda and Dan Strauss are the sponsors of this new legislation, so they will vote yes. If you live in Councilmember Strauss’ district, you are welcome to send an email thanking him for his leadership on this issue.

Here’s how:

  1. You can find email addresses here. (Phone calls are also fine.)
  2. Start your email by telling the councilmember(s) where you live (your neighborhood) and asking that they vote yes on CB 120157.
  3. Tell them why passing this bill is important to you or to the city. AIA is focusing its comments around the need for BIPOC communities to be able to control their own development projects. You can see AIA’s and NOMA NW’s letter on the original legislation here and read Donald King’s letter on the current legislation from the Nehemiah Initiative here.
  4. This can be very brief! “Please vote yes on CB 120157” is actually sufficient.

Emails should be sent by Sept. 26.

That’s it!  It can be very brief. If you have questions, please reach out to Kirsten.

Thank you!