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Seattle City Council passes citywide Mandatory Housing Affordability!

Updated: May 20, 2019

On Monday, Seattle City Council unanimously voted to enact the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program in 27 urban villages throughout Seattle. MHA requires that developers contribute toward increasing Seattle’s supply of affordable housing.

The vote came more than five years after Seattle began working on its Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, of which MHA is a key component. MHA has been in effect in downtown neighborhoods and the University District since 2017. Bellwether Housing has been a leading advocate for MHA throughout the process.

“It is time for us to say yes to more density, yes to more housing, and yes to more neighbors in 27 additional neighborhoods throughout the City of Seattle,” Councilmember M. Lorena González said, minutes before she and her fellow councilmembers unanimously voted in support of citywide MHA.

MHA requires developers constructing new commercial or residential projects in urban villages help create affordable housing by either including units on-site or by paying into a fund that will help non-profits develop income and rent restricted homes. In exchange for these requirements, MHA includes modest upzones that allow developers to build s

ightly taller buildings in 27 urban villages around the City. (Urban villages are neighborhood hubs that already feature a mix of building types and frequent public transit service.) MHA’s upzones will affect only 6% of the land area in Seattle currently zoned for single family homes.

MHA is expected to yield 6,000 new affordable homes across Seattle in the next ten years. A portion of these homes will be built within market rate and luxury apartment buildings. Non-profit affordable housing developers will build the rest by leveraging an anticipated $448.5 million generated by developer-fees and awarded to them through a competitive process.

“MHA leverages our city’s growth and our need for more housing of all sizes and styles to create affordable homes that will help the people who work here to live here in the city and bring our unsheltered neighbors indoors into safe, supportive homes,” Susan Boyd, CEO of Bellwether Housing, said after Monday’s vote.

Bellwether Housing has advocated for MHA every step of the way from its early planning and policy formulation stages through the community engagement process to the final hearings on the policy earlier this year. In 2018, Bellwether staff and board members turned out to public hearings in every council district to speak up for enacting MHA citywide. Boyd has been a vocal advocate for the program, lending her expertise in affordable housing development and finance to the campaign. A Bellwether advocate spoke minutes before Monday’s vote, urging City Council to pass MHA to help create more affordable homes.

“Implementing MHA citywide will boost the resources available to non-profits like Bellwether Housing to create high quality, affordable homes for more low-income households in neighborhoods like Roosevelt, First Hill, and Rainier Beach. Living in walkable, transit-accessible, service-rich neighborhoods shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for high income earners. Enacting MHA throughout the city will help people of all backgrounds and incomes access the incredible opportunities found here in Seattle,” Boyd said.

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