West Seattle Blog... » West Seattle housing http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Sun, 26 Apr 2015 10:54:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 ‘Affordable housing’ forum starts with West Seattle tales of unaffordable housing, and what (little) you can do about it http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/affordable-housing-forum-starts-with-west-seattle-tales-of-unaffordable-housing-and-what-little-you-can-do-about-it/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/affordable-housing-forum-starts-with-west-seattle-tales-of-unaffordable-housing-and-what-little-you-can-do-about-it/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 02:11:41 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=308049

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Rather than starting with numbers and trends, this afternoon’s affordable-housing forum at the Senior Center of West Seattle cut directly to the heart of the crisis, with two women telling their stories.

They were introduced by the center’s social worker Holly McNeill: “I’ve had an incredible increase in the number of people coming to me each week telling me they’re homeless, or their apartments are being torn down, or they’re being priced out by the landlord or manager in order to upgrade the apartments and turn them around at twice the amount they’re currently being rented at … it’s just happening to so many people.”

First, Nancy:


“I lived in a 9-unit mom-and-pop-type apartment complex.” She thought it would “be there forever.” They told her they were selling the building but “selling it to people just like us” – then, “the new owners who came in and bought the building raised the rents anywhere from 130 to 140 percent – “In a studio apartment, my rent went from $650 to $1500 a month” – the audience groans – “Each unit was going to be responsible for the common area utilities like electric and water,” which was another 93/month. They got two months’ notice. “My first reaction was to go into research mode – my kids always say, mom’s on a mission, get out of her way.” She worked to find out, “is this legal … what are our rights … to no avail, really.” She had had surgeries recently, ended up having to take early retirement. “I don’t really have wiggle room to go from $650 to $1590, that’s even more than I make per month.” So she started “an arduous process” to find someplace else to live – “day and night I was on the computer looking for a place to live.” She finally found somewhere, “not my ultimate, ‘isn’t this great,’ but I accomplished my goal. I had to be out on the 28th of February, or else pay $1590 on the first of March for rent. ”

They were going to make some changes, “lipstick on a pig,” she said, but not until the new rent kicked in. She found a two bedroom, one bath apartment with “some guy I don’t know” – she had “a pit in the bottom of my stomach … I took a leap of faith, and moved in, and I’ve been there two months and he decided this month not to pay his rent, and I just found that out two days ago, and I’m going to be homeless again …”

Nancy continued, “The highest I can afford is $650/month – and I guarantee you cannot find anything inside OR outside Seattle – I even searched as far as Bellingham.” Her landlords want to keep her but can’t figure out how. “These are stories that SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING.”


Next, Diana, who said she considers herself homeless – she is living with her sister and brother-in-law; “if not for them I would be on the street or in Nickelsville.” Previously, she explained, she was renting a room in Admiral; the owner decided she was going to sell the house, didn’t tell the tenants, her or the other two tenants. “She sold the house, sold it as a teardown, sold it to developers – the developers came in, we were not told anything, we were there about a year and we got a 60-day notice we had to be out. We all looked (after the sale) … we could not find anything. To find something you can afford, is unreal. Craigslist .. if you answer anything (there) and say you are retired, you don’t get a callback.”

She continued, “It’s very sad. … I’m not the only one. There are a lot of other people in the area. It’s very frustrating. I don’t know what else to say, because I’m angry. If you ask a question, you don’t even get an answer. You’re made to feel stupid. I’m not stupid.” She said, “I wish we could march on the streets of West Seattle and let people know.”

Then, the trends and advice. Senior Center interim executive director Lyle Evans had introduced them all at the start, before City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen explained that the forum had been in the works for months.

Jennifer LaBrecque from the city Office of Housing spoke first, reviewing rental trends in West Seattle and the rest of the city:

First – “rents over time” – inflation-adjusted. Rents currently average less than $1,300 for 1=bedroom apartments in the larger West Seattle area, less than the citywide average 1-bedroom rent. One line shows The Junction, $1,456/month for 1-bedroom.

Looking at incomes – West Seattle is comparable to the rest of the city, with about 25 percent of people make $35,000 or less per year. Almost half make $75,000 or more. Then a pie chart – housing and income, rent data, almost half the people in West Seattle (and the city in general) are “housing-cost burdened” – housing costs more than 30 percent of their income. 24 percent are paying 20 to 29.9%, 28 percent are paying less than 20 percent.

She shows profiles – a woman who is retired on a fixed income – “household income $14,400, affordable rent would be $360, average studio rent … $1,169 … that’s close to a $700 gap between what they can afford and what they can find.” Then, a couple working part time – combined household income about $26,000, affordable rent would be $668, average rent is $1400 – “another gap.”

For a single person working fulltime and getting paid $30K, rent would be $765 at “affordable,” but $1169 is the reality of a studio.

She showed a slide with what she refers to as rent-restricted housing in WS, both public housing and the Multi-Family Tax Exemption-related units (developers don’t have to pay taxes on the residential construction for 12 years as long as they set aside a certain number of units for lower-income tenants), while cautioning, “for many if not most of these projects, there is a long wait list.”

She mentioned “HousingSearchNW.org“, which has a database among other resources for finding “available units that are affordable.” And she showed a list of homeowner resources – Home Repair Loan Program, HomeWise Weatherization Program, Foreclosure Prevention Resources, Minor Home Repair Program, Utility Discount Program.

Next: Joy Scott from Solid Ground.

She mentioned the Tenant Services Hotline they run three days a week. They offer “information on your rights as a renter under the Landlord Tenant Act,” “discuss your situation and brainstorm actions,” “provide community resources and free legal referrals.”

And then, she offered practical advice:

TOP FIVE TENANT TIPS

*Be proactive – know your rights uner the law and how to assert them
*You must be current in rent in order to assert your rights under the law
*Don’t withhold rent over repairs; the landlord could evict you for not paying your rent
*Communicate with your landlord in writing. Create a file and keep copies of letters, receipts, and notices related to your tenancy
*Read the rental agreement before signing and view the actual unit you will be moving into

She outlined key points of the Fair Tenant Screening Act, outlining what the landlord must provide in writing, and what fees they are allowed to charge – “only charge a screening fee if they have provided written notice of what the screening entails as described; can only charge the actual costs of screening – about $35 to $75.”

They recommend: Minimize your risk of paying a fee and getting denied by knowing what’s on your record adn finding out what the landlord is willing to work with, BEFORE you pay – what might be a cause for denial, for example. If you do get denied – they must give you a “written adverse-action notice stating the reason why” – if that is not provided, you can sue for up to $100 in Small Claims Court, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.

Common barriers to tenancy: Eviction records – which never come off your record; credit history – check your credit report first – criminal history, and rental history. (Solid Ground, she explains, has a “financial fitness” program helping go over people’s credit reports.)

She goes over pros of month-to-month – pros include easy termination (both sides) but cons include terms including rent increases can be changed with as little as a month’s written notice. “Lease tenancy” – during that time, the terms can’t be changed but it’s a binding contract so if you need to change the terms, it becomes more difficult to exit without fines or penalties.

Security/damage deposits – rental agreement must be in writing including terms/conditions for deposit; walk-through checklist signed and copy to tenant; landlord provides you the name of the bank where the deposit is held in a trust account.


About rent increases, Scott said:

*To institute a rent increase: A tenancy must be month-to-month or up for renewal
*30 days written notice required, must correspond to start of rental period, usually 1st
*In Seattle, for rent increases of 10 percent or more in a twelve-month period, 60 days written notice is required
*Rent increase cannot be retaliatory
*There is NO rent control in Washington

Other helpful information:

To request repairs:
*Contact your landlord as soon as you notice
*Send request in writing (that does NOT mean e-mail)
*State time frames to begin repairs provided in the law
*Send repair letters by registered mail

Time frames:
Once the landlord receives a written requwst, they must begin to fix the problem within
*24 hours hot/cold water, electricity, heat, imminently hazardous
*72 hours plumbing, ovens, major appliences they supplied
*10 days for other repairs such as pest infestations

Notice to move out:
In month-to-month, 20 days written notice is required; improper notice or not moving out by deadline might cost a tenant an entire month of rent; in Seattle, a landlord cannot terminate a month-to-month tenancy without “Just Cause” – city ordinances cite 18 reasons

Documentation regarding moving out
*Review rental agreement, take pictures when you move in AND move out, communicate with landlord in writing, request receipts/keep copies of all communication, document all damages to the unit, no matter how small

Getting your deposit back
*Landlord has 14 days to refund or send itemized statement saying why any portion of it is being withheld
*If they miss deadline, you’re entitled to get it all back

Mortgage services program
*They can provide general info about foreclosure process, discuss situation/brainstorm actions, provide assistantce in navigating yoru lender’s loan workout process, refer and rep you in mediation with your lender, provide community resources and free legal referrals, provide Home Equity Conversion Mortgage counseling

Number one tip for property owners facing this – OPEN EVERY PIECE OF MAIL YOU GET. She explains “loan modification,” the forms you need, etc.

She says “reverse mortgages” not always the best solution but “does work for some” – available if you are 62 or over. They are not connected to financial institutions but you should attend a counseling session before you get one.

Next, Jake LeBlanc from the Seattle Housing Authority. He says they have 6,000 units and 10,000 vouchers in the city.

Low Income Public Housing program – where residents pay 30 percent of their income – 3200 units around the city, 28 high rises, low income, able to live indpendently, average income $9000, average rent $250. SHA gets a federal subsidy for each unit. Waiting list 1-4 years.

Then the Seattle Senior Housing Program – 23 buildings, 62 and older, all one or two bedrooms, average income $13,000, waiting list 1-3 years. There are rent tiers in this program, Jake says, depending on income.

LIPH West Seattle properties are on this mapCal-Mor Circle, Westwood Heights (near Roxbury Safeway), Stewart Manor. Westwood is 62 and older, has 135 units, other two have about 75 units. SSHP Wildwood Glen has 24 units, is about 30 years old, near Fauntleroy Ferry. Wait list 2.5 years, maybe 2 vacancies a year.

Le Blanc showed the rent tier graph, and then contact information including Admissions Office who can talk to them about resources, whether their housing or other low-income housing.

Outgoing City Councilmember Sally Clark, who is introduced by Rasmussen as having worked on affordable-housing issues for a long time, talked about “what city is working on internally.” Now she says, Seattle has been a boom-and-bust town for a long time: stories frequently about real-estate money, equity coming from outside, “very technical … but the real impact is the change of rent on what we see are these very attractive properties …” longtime landlords “who cared about our communities … we love our tenants and we’re not interested in making too many changes” – but then eventually properties change hands, like the 140 percent rent increase, “someone has bought and is maximizing their return.” She says the city is thinking more about preservation and how to get more praoctive. The city wants to becompetitive economically AND competitive in maintaining way of life.

She then explained the group “meeting around the Affordable Housing Agenda,” saying they are people from all aspects of the housing situation, “how does the city do better, how do we catch up, close the gaps …” The group is supposed to have recommendations by the end of May.

The two-months notice is someplace where Seattle has gone above and beyond other jurisdictions – but even at that, Clark acknowledged, “with a 140 percent rent increase, what does 60 days get you?” She said she intends to stay involved even after transitioning into her new job with the UW.

First audience question: Do you get on just one waiting list, or multiple? SHA’s LeBlanc said you can get on multiple wait lists – you can apply for both SSPP and LIPH, and can make a choice of which building(s) you’d rather be in. “It’s really important with us that you stay in contact, no matter which waitlist you’re on.”

Second question: What incentives are in the works for affordable housing? Rasmussen mentioned the MFTE – which Clark said had to be renewed by year’s end; she went on to mention “two buckets,” subsidized units and incentive zoning. (None of the latter in WS right now, she noticed.) She also mentioned the linkage fee, which says “when you build a new building, you’re changing the economics of the community – now, everybody else’s property values are going up, it’s gotten more expensive to be in the neighborhood, you probably had to include retail on the ground floor … (the workers in that retail) tend to not be incomes that can afford to live in the building you just built.” So, supporters of the fee contend, the developer should be making a contribution because of all that. “The linkage fee is being studied.”

A man stood up and pointed out that at least 1,000 new housing units are being built all around The Junction. “Are you saying that none of them are going to be low-income housing?”

He was interrupted for a moment by the next question, a man whose wife had a stroke and now they are paying $5,000/month for health care. “What do we do when our money runs out?” One thing he suggested, “get on a waiting list right away.”

Back to the low-income housing, MFTE came up again. No one knew which under-construction buildings were participating. Nancy, who said she was “trying to sit here and not explode,” says she can answer that – she had checked on them all – and mentioned that the “affordable” level is still way out of reach.

Clark said that lawmakers need to be able to help tell stories like the ones we heard here – “we need to make those stories real – Sen. Kohl-Welles’s bill” (should have advanced, but lost traction).

Nancy said extending the time is great, but that doesn’t change the fact the rent would still be unaffordable. “Unless one of you wants to take me home tonight and let me live with you, I’m screwed.”

Questions meandered a bit to the safety of low-income housing and whether pets were allowed.

One woman said that trying to cope with this problem can cause PTSD. “Keep reminding people that it costs so much more to our society to have to remedy the longterm health are or social problem or rehousing people … We all want Seattle to be a wonderful place to live. But 48 percent of us, housing is a burden, a stress in our life. That’s not healthy.”

Another question: What if landlords raise the rent every year, say 10 percent every year? Can we do anything about that? Rasmussen says, yes, they can, under current law. LaBrecque from the Office of Housing said, “We do see that more than we’d like to.”

More questions: What about legislation to standardize the tenant-screening fee and make it affordable? And what about landlords – lots of talk about how renters need to be careful not to screw up, but what about landlords violating lease agreements, say, allowing a pet in what’s supposed to be a pet-free building, where other tenants rented with that expectation?

Rasmussen said he wasn’t sure the screening fee could be standardized/made affordable at a city level – it might be something that the state hasn’t granted authority for them to do. He says he’ll look into it. Second, LaBrecque there’s no central landlord-observing body but the city does have staff that will come out, and you can make a report without providing your specific info. She pointed to a guide to tenants’ rights that has two pages of resources for tenants. (We found some here.) The Washington State Human Rights Commission could help with civil-rights violations at a property, for example, she said.

Another attendee asked about how to organize a group in a building that could have an impact on the building environment – in her building, for example, someone decided they wanted no pictures on the wall. “I’m sorry to bring this up when people are dealing with having a roof over their head, but sometimes that roof can feel like a prison,” she said. Solid Ground’s Scott suggested going to the Tenants’ Union.

From another attendee, the law regarding parking requirements in a building. “I live in senior housing, my life is literally directed about whether i can be home before 3 or I do not have a place on my street close to my apartment to park. I am a heart patient. I have sometimes had to walk half a mile.” She says that some neighbors cancel their health appointments if they’re going to get home after 4:30 pm because they can’t walk safely to their apartments.

Rasmussen explains the frequent-transit-service reason, and acknowledges the transit service doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. He then explains the cost to developers and cites $30,000-$40,000/parking space, and that the cost of the building affects the rent that will be charged. He also mentions a lot of pressure, strong sentiment to not require parking. “Where’s the pressure for not requiring parking?” asks a woman. “From the developers,” answers Rasmussen, “and from those who are advocating for affordable housing.” He says in some areas, like Capitol Hill, parking spaces are built in buildings and not used.

Wrapping up the forum, Evans said that the center has a bulletin board if someone wants to share a room or offer a room. It’s an unofficial way to coordinate, so drop by the center – “the home-sharing thing might be an immediate fix for some of you.”

No solutions – but a lot of resources.

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‘Affordable-housing challenges’ forum ahead @ WS Senior Center http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/affordable-housing-challenges-forum-ahead-ws-senior-center/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/affordable-housing-challenges-forum-ahead-ws-senior-center/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 20:51:39 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=307858 In case you missed our first mention – this is just two days away, 12:30 pm-2:30 pm Thursday (April 23rd) at the Senior Center of West Seattle:

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will host a community forum regarding affordable-housing challenges for senior citizens and options for those on fixed incomes. Rasmussen is hosting the meeting in response to concerns he has heard regarding the increasing cost of housing, particularly from low-income seniors. Representatives for senior citizens, social workers, housing affordability advocates, Seattle Housing Authority, and from the Seattle Utility Discount Program will be part of the presentation.

Forum topics include:

· Increasing housing costs
· Landlord and renter rights in Seattle
· Affordable housing options for seniors
· Opportunities for participation in the Utility Discount Program
· Q&A

Everyone is invited to attend to learn more and ask questions.

The Senior Center’s entrance is on SW Oregon just east of California SW.

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Mayor puts a number on ‘affordable housing’: 20,000 units in 10 years http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/mayor-puts-a-number-on-affordable-housing-20000-units-in-10-years/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/mayor-puts-a-number-on-affordable-housing-20000-units-in-10-years/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:52:26 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=305180 Will runaway rents chase (more) people out of the city? With heartbreaking tales like this one emerging, and discussions like this one ongoing, Mayor Murray has stepped up While his affordable-housing advisory committee continues to work on its recommendations, Mayor Murray has just given them a goal with a specific number:

Mayor Murray today directed the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee to meet his new goal for both income-restricted affordable and market-rate units to be created over the coming decade.

Mayor Murray asked the committee to develop specific proposals that will allow the building and preservation of 50,000 housing units over in the next 10 years within the city limits. 20,000 of these must be income-restricted affordable units for individuals and families making 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) and below. 30,000 units would be market rate.

“Seattle is facing a serious lack of affordable housing options that displace families and people in this city,” said Murray. “Next week, Seattle’s minimum wage workers are getting a raise as a part of our broader affordability agenda. We need to make sure that those who work in Seattle can afford to live here.”

The increase in income-restricted affordable units is nearly a tripling of the current rate of units being built for those at 80 percent of AMI or less. Currently, income-restricted affordable housing is being built at a rate of around 700 units per year.

“As the HALA enters the last stretch of analysis and discussion of strategies, this target will sharpen our focus,” said Faith Le-Pettis, co-chair of the advisory committee. “No matter your perspective, the target we’ve been given by the Mayor is an enormous number. We’ll need determination, long-sightedness and civic commitment to meet the challenge.”

The Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee was formed by Mayor Murray and city councilmembers in the fall of 2014 to develop policy recommendations for the city. The committee is made up of 28 housing experts, activists and community leaders. They will issue their recommendations to the Mayor in May.

Right now, the Multi-Family Tax Exemption is one incentive the city has been offering developers for some years – if they agree to keep a certain number of units in their projects in certain areas (including West Seattle’s urban villages/centers) at a certain percentage of the area’s median income, they get a 12-year tax break, no property taxes on the residential portion of their buildings.

When we talked to Mayor Murray at his neighborhood-press availability last week, he mentioned he would be announcing an affordable-housing goal and that it would take “a series of tools – not just one tool” to make it reality. He said in that interview that it would be vital to build units for people who will “never qualify for subsidized housing” but are being priced out of the “market” nonetheless.

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Happening now: Triple demolition at Junction Flats project site http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/happening-now-triple-demolition-at-junction-flats-project-site/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/happening-now-triple-demolition-at-junction-flats-project-site/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 17:52:53 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=304291

While Junction leaders were gathered at Husky Deli to launch a survey of the area’s historical character, another development project was ramping up just blocks away. Thanks to Sally and Carl for sending photos from 42nd SW in The Junction, just north of SW Oregon, where three houses are coming down at the Junction Flats site, weeks after the demolition equipment was brought in and parked in the houses’ front yards. This is right across the street from Hope Lutheran School, which has provided an audience of sorts:

It’s been more than a year since Junction Flats finished going through Design Review.

The 4-story building is planned for 80 units (all apartments except for two live-work units) and 52 off-street parking spaces.

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West Seattle development: New plan for 4532 42nd SW, six years post-demolition http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/west-seattle-development-new-plan-for-4532-42nd-sw-six-years-post-demolition/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/west-seattle-development-new-plan-for-4532-42nd-sw-six-years-post-demolition/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 22:46:17 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=301498

(WSB photo from November 17, 2008)
At 4532 42nd SW in The Junction, that house with history – a long-ago hospital, WSB’ers told us – came down in fall of 2008. At the time, a 35-residential-unit, 54-parking-space development was in the works. As happened to some other projects right around that time, it got shelved. Now a brand-new proposal has emerged, a mixed-use building with 84 apartments and 70 underground parking spaces. The project would also include the site of the small brick house-turned-office at 4536 42nd SW, placing the building immediately north of Capco Plaza (QFC/Altamira).

(WSB photo, taken this morning)
According to the early-stage site plan that just turned up in city files, the building’s parking garage would have an entry on the same alley used for the Capco Plaza garage, and the residential entry on 42nd would be just north of the alley. This will require Design Review – no date yet. It’s an NK Architects project, as are the two noted below:

SIDE NOTE: This proposal’s emergence means three projects are now in the works for the two-block stretch of 42nd between Genesee and Alaska in the heart of The Junction. Construction equipment has been parked for a while outside two of the three houses scheduled to come down for 80-apartment Junction Flats on the west side of 42nd just north of Oregon; just south of Oregon, 4505 42nd SW, with 41 apartments and 9 “lodging” units, won Design Review approval earlier this year.

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Lower rent limits for tax-break-qualifying microhousing units? City Council to consider rule change http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/lower-rent-limits-for-tax-break-qualifying-microhousing-units-city-council-to-consider-rule-change/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/lower-rent-limits-for-tax-break-qualifying-microhousing-units-city-council-to-consider-rule-change/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 06:27:27 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=300025 Another new rule regarding microhousing units is about to go before the City Council. With two micro buildings open here, two more under construction, and one in the pipeline, you might find it of interest.

BACKSTORY: Right now, if a microhousing building is eligible for the city’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption tax-break program, the maximum rent and income eligibility numbers are the same as for studio units in non-microhousing buildings. A proposed rule change going before a council committee this week would lower those numbers for microhousing – now formally known as SEDUs (small efficiency dwelling units) –

The MFTE program, explained in full here, currently involves more than 140 of all types around the city. Participating property owners must rent out at least 20 percent of their units at a city-set affordability level, and in exchange, they don’t have to pay property tax on the residential portions of their buildings for 12 years (they DO keep paying the tax on the land and on any non-residential parts of the structure, such as retail space).

The current list of participants of all types, citywide, includes both completed West Seattle microhousing buildings, Footprint Avalon I (3266 SW Avalon Way) and Footprint Delridge (4548 Delridge Way SW). (The exemption is only available in certain areas.)

WHAT WOULD CHANGE: It’s explained in a memo to the council – here’s an excerpt:

What prompted the need for this legislation?

* In 2014, the Council passed an ordinance establishing SEDUs as a new unit type, distinct from other unit types. Because existing Code does not set affordability requirements specifically for SEDUs in MFTE, the MFTE program would regard a SEDU as a studio, restricted at 65% of AMI. This translates to a maximum monthly housing cost of $1,004 and a maximum annual income for a one-person household of $40,170. However, typical SEDU market-rate rents are anticipated to be less than not only market-rate rents but also the restricted, affordable-rate rents for studios.

What would be the result of the lower affordability threshold in terms of affordable rent and annual income limits?

* The proposed legislation would reduce the maximum rent threshold for income-restricted SEDUs in MFTE projects to a level affordable to individuals earning 40% of AMI [area median income], resulting in a maximum monthly housing cost of $772 and a maximum annual income for a one-person household of $30,900.

Again, this wouldn’t cover ALL units in a microhousing building participating in the tax-break program – just the 20 percent required for eligibility. In some areas, this might not mean much of a change – doing a spot check online, for example, we note Footprint Avalon I is advertising rents $800-$899 right now.

Two more microhousing/SEDU buildings are under construction in West Seattle right now, 3268 SW Avalon and 5949 California SW, with another one planned at 3050 SW Avalon. Both of the latter have been approved for participation in the MFTE program, according to this report to the City Council last spring (which also includes data such as how much tax was *not* collected because of the exemption – scroll all the way down the document). The proposed changes will be discussed when the council’s Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency, chaired by Councilmember Sally Clark, meets at 9:30 am this Thursday (February 5th) at City Hall.

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What do you think about growth? How can Seattle encourage affordable housing? These and other questions … http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/what-do-you-think-about-growth-how-can-seattle-encourage-affordable-housing-these-and-other-questions/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/what-do-you-think-about-growth-how-can-seattle-encourage-affordable-housing-these-and-other-questions/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:32:28 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=295576 The city’s been running online surveys in abundance lately. This one, though, speaks to topics that we cover often here on WSB, and after going through its questions and open-comment spaces, we thought you might be interested, given its questions about everything from housing costs to your opinions of growth. It’s being presented as part of the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. It’s not the usual basic online-survey format; be forewarned, you’ll find some spots requiring scrolling, and some questions where you can check as many circles as you want, others where you have to settle on one. Start the survey here (and note the open-comment thread at the bottom of the start page, if you just want to say something without taking the survey at all).

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West Seattle development: New Junction apartment-building proposal, 60 units at 4528 44th SW http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-new-junction-apartment-building-proposal-60-units-at-4528-44th-sw/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-new-junction-apartment-building-proposal-60-units-at-4528-44th-sw/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 04:57:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=292805

Scouring the latest Department of Planning and Development data, we turned up another new apartment-building proposal for The Junction. The 1952-built 8-unit building at 4528 44th SW (map), shown above in a King County Assessor’s Office photo, is proposed for replacement with what the city website describes as a “new 60-unit apartment building, five stories plus basement, five enclosed parking spaces.” The 5,850-square-foot site is zoned for development up to 65′ and borders the alley behind several retailers. It’s also almost directly across 44th from the under-construction 38-unit Lofts at The Junction at 4535 44th SW. According to the DPD website, this proposal will have to go through the Design Review process; no date set yet – it’s in the relatively early stages, with its newest “site plan” filed just this past Monday.

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West Seattle development: 3824 California’s new design; 4505 42nd back to Design Review; 7-lot Beach Drive site for sale; more http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-3824-californias-new-design-4505-42nd-back-to-design-review-7-lot-beach-drive-site-for-sale-more/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-3824-californias-new-design-4505-42nd-back-to-design-review-7-lot-beach-drive-site-for-sale-more/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 03:25:57 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=292126 Development notes:

REVISED DESIGN FOR 3824 CALIFORNIA SW: The 14-townhouse/13-live-work-unit development on the ex-Charlestown Café site goes back to the Southwest Design Review Board next week (as noted here last week), at 6:30 pm Thursday (November 20th), Senior Center of West Seattle. And now, the “packet” showing the newest design proposal is online – see it here. This will be the fourth time the project goes before the board. It changed architects before the third meeting (WSB coverage here), and the new firm, Johnston Architects, remains at the helm.

ALSO GOING BACK TO DESIGN REVIEW, WITH A NEW COMPONENT: 4505 42nd SW, just across the alley from the Senior Center, now described as:

7-story structure containing 50 residential units, 6,900 sq. ft. of lodging use and 3,600 sq. ft. of ground floor retail use. Parking for 15 vehicles to be provided below grade.

No design packet yet; “lodging” was not part of the project in its previous reviews (most recently, seven months ago). It’s just been added to the schedule for the 8 pm December 4th SWDRB slot (following the 6:30 pm review of the assisted-living project at 4515 41st SW).

DELRIDGE SITE IN FOR ‘STREAMLINED DESIGN REVIEW’: 5206 Delridge Way is proposed for a “five-unit townhouse structure” that’s in for streamlined design review, which means no meeting.

7-LOT BEACH DRIVE SITE ON THE MARKET: Just spotted last night in an online listing, seven lots comprising 2 acres of potential homesites at 5606 Beach Drive, listed at $2,432,250.

TEARDOWNS: In the city permitting system, updated over the past week or so: Demolition permits issued or sought for 3810 California SW (aforementioned ex-café site that’s being developed as 3824 California); single-family house at 4035 36th SW (new house to be built); duplex and garage at 5003 Fauntleroy Way SW (7-unit rowhouse to be built); single-family house at 5269 California SW (West Seattle Nursery expansion site); 4500 40th SW (development plan reported here); single-family houses at 2835 and 2837 SW Adams (three-story, 6-unit rowhouse proposed to replace them).

BOUNDARY CHANGES: 5915 Fauntleroy Way, lot-boundary change sought (rowhouse project proposed); 5008 Fauntleroy Way, lot-boundary change sought (rowhouse project proposed and comments being taken).

P.S. – NEW WAY TO SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING WHERE: The city Department of Planning and Development home page has a map that will show you spots where projects are proposed. But someone outside city government has just come up with an even-better way to take a look at what’s happening where – at least, for now, the larger projects. It’s called Seattle In Progress. Ethan Phelps-Goodman explains it here.

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Affordable, livable housing: What do you want the city to do to ensure/enhance it? http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/affordable-livable-housing-what-do-you-want-the-city-to-do-to-ensureenhance-it/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/affordable-livable-housing-what-do-you-want-the-city-to-do-to-ensureenhance-it/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 06:04:56 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=291710

Affordable, livable housing. Everybody needs it. Not everybody can find it. So the city’s trying to figure out what it can/should do, to fix that. To help shape its Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, it’s working with an advisory committee. Among its members, West Seattle community advocate Cindi Barker, who says the committee met for the first time last week and is now looking ahead to three community meetings at which you can be heard.

Above is the slide deck with issues and data put before the committee, but you might already know in your heart and gut what it would take to deal with this issue. The key “starting points” for discussion are growth, affordability, recent development, and race/social justice. Back to the upcoming meetings: They’re all outside West Seattle, but the first two are not far:

South Seattle: Ethiopian Community Center (Map)
Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Central District: Garfield Community Center (Map)
Thursday, November 20, 2014, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Northgate: Northgate Community Center (Map)
Thursday, December 04, 2014, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Meeting format:

6:00 pm, doors open

6:30 – 6:45, introductions and remarks

6:45 – 7:30, Survey of meeting attendees (hand held survey devices so people can respond to presentation material and provide direct input)

7:30 – 8:00, display stations of information and interaction with staff and committee members present

The full committee roster, by the way, is listed on the right side of this city webpage. They are expected to get recommendations to the mayor and council by the end of May.

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West Seattle development: Microhousing on the move http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-microhousing-on-the-move/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-microhousing-on-the-move/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 05:04:27 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=290880 Updates tonight on three in-the-works West Seattle microhousing projects:

5949 CALIFORNIA: WORK EXPECTED TO BEGIN – The smallest of the three, at 5949 California SW in north Morgan Junction, has had its permits for a while, and now, Morgan Community Association president Deb Barker says she’s learned that construction is about to begin. The house in our photo above is to be replaced with a five-story micro-apartment building with ~38 “sleeping rooms” and no offstreet-parking spaces; we first reported on the project in May 2013.

The next two projects were considered to be more or less on hold because of a city letter sent in September, as reported here. That letter sent to these and other projects around the city referenced a court decision, saying that their current plans meant each room would have to be counted as a separate dwelling unit, so either those plans would have to change or the projects would need to go through Design Review.. But we’ve discovered new developments on both projects:

3268 SW AVALON WAY: Just before the city memo in late September, the start of work on this 50+-unit project (next door to an already-complete microhousing building) was considered to be imminent – a temporary power tower had gone up. But nothing happened until Friday, when we noticed toward day’s end that the old multiplex on the site next to the 35th/Avalon 7-11 had been torn down. The file shows that the construction and demolition permits were issued three weeks ago. But we haven’t yet found anything online indicating what might have changed, if anything, in relation to the city memo.

Different story down the street …

3050 SW AVALON WAY: This 100+-unit, no-offstreet-parking-spaces project also appears to be proceeding. After seeing the demolition work up the street, we checked the file for this project and found a memo from architect Jay Janette, dated Friday, responding directly to the September letter from the city, by saying:

So rooms are not counted as separate dwelling units, per the City of Seattle DPD letter dated September 22, 2014, all sinks, refrigeration equipment, built-in cabinet and counters outside the bathrooms have been removed from each room.

That’s followed by, “If there are any remaining issues that we need to resolve, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly to resolve over the phone or email in lieu of another review cycle.”

Future microhousing projects will be reviewed under the city’s new rules passed a month ago.

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Charge a development fee to encourage ‘affordable housing’? Seattle City Council committee says yes http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/charge-a-development-fee-to-encourage-affordable-housing-seattle-city-council-committee-says-yes/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/charge-a-development-fee-to-encourage-affordable-housing-seattle-city-council-committee-says-yes/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 20:45:46 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=288680

(Click the image to go to the full-size map on the city website)
Would a new type of development fee lead to more affordable housing in the city? The City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee has just voted in favor of a proposal for a so-called “linkage fee” intended to make that happen. If it became law, it would affect commercial and multifamily development in certain parts of the city, shown on the map above – including parts of West Seattle:

A City Council committee today recommended approval of a plan to create an affordable housing linkage fee to preserve and create affordable housing in Seattle. The resolution directs City departments to develop legislation whereby new construction in multi-family and commercial zones would mitigate the cost of increasing rents by funding housing affordable to those households making $45,000 – $65,000 per year, which is 60% – 80% of area median income (AMI).

“If we want Seattle to be an inclusive city for people of all incomes, then we need to see more housing produced that’s affordable to more people. Up until this point, the market has clearly not given us the housing we need,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, chair of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee and the legislation’s sponsor.

Developers could either pay a per-square-foot fee, which is variable based on project’s location in the city, or avoid the fee by dedicating at least 3% – 5% of the units in their project to households making less than 80% AMI. The money generated from fees would be invested in workforce housing.

“Our expert economic consultants suggest that at this fee level, development would absorb the fees without constricting new supply or significantly raising rents,” Councilmember O’Brien added.

The (above) map illustrates where the linkage fee would be applied in multi-family and commercial development in the city.

Full Council is expected to vote on the resolution on Monday, October 20. Draft legislation for Council consideration is expected by June 1, 2015. The final legislation is anticipated to gradually phase-in over a three year period and would not affect existing projects or new projects with permit applications already submitted.

Additional information about O’Brien’s proposal for an Affordable Housing Linkage Fee in Seattle is available online.

This is separate from the city’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption program, which enables a partial tax exemption on projects that commit to below-market rents for part of their units. The city’s current list of projects in that program includes nine buildings in West Seattle.

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West Seattle development: ‘Streamlined design review’ proposals for townhouses at 3811 California http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-development-streamlined-design-review-proposals-for-townhouses-at-3811-california/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-development-streamlined-design-review-proposals-for-townhouses-at-3811-california/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 16:16:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=288661 The latest plan for 3811 California SW is advancing, with a plan now in city files for “streamlined design review” (SDR) – which means public comments will be accepted, but there’s no Design Review Board meeting. The site is currently home to Charlestown Court, the brick fourplex that has been rejected twice for landmark status. The proposal, as first reported here in January, is to replace it with four 2-unit townhouse buildings and eight offstreet-parking spaces on the alley. Here’s what architect S+H Works has filed with the city for the SDR process:

(If you can’t see the embedded document, try this link.) If you’re interested in commenting on the proposal, this page on the city website explains how.

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West Seattle development: Abatement/demolition begins for The Whittaker; six other teardown/rebuild notes http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-development-abatementdemolition-begins-for-the-whittaker-six-other-teardownrebuild-notes/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-development-abatementdemolition-begins-for-the-whittaker-six-other-teardownrebuild-notes/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 01:40:47 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=288129 Seven West Seattle development notes:

ABATEMENT/DEMOLITION WORK BEGINS AT THE WHITTAKER: If you have driven past the site of The Whittaker (400 apartments plus retail including Whole Foods Market) at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, you might have noticed the heavy equipment beginning work. A project spokesperson confirms that they have “officially started abatement work,” adding that the “auto body shop on 40th is scheduled to be demolished sometime tomorrow.” Major demolition is about two weeks away, if all goes as planned, and construction is set to start next month.

Six smaller demolition/construction projects of note, with permits granted or applied for in the past week or so:

4101 SW OREGON: In The Junction, the demolition permit has just been granted for a project first mentioned here almost a year ago; an 87-year-old house will be demolished and replaced with a 4-unit rowhouse.

4316 SW THISTLE: The application is now in for a “lot boundary adjustment” at this corner parcel, on the books as two lots, as mentioned here in July, though holding one house for more than a century. That house is planned for teardown, and replacement with two single-family houses including “accessory dwelling units,” which means four residences in all. (For “accessory dwelling units” to be legal, the city rules say, the property owner has to live on site, either in the main house or ADU.)

6540 FAUNTLEROY WAY SW: In Morgan Junction, this 98-year-old house is proposed for demolition and replacement with a new single-family house.

9007 45TH SW: In Fauntleroy, this 71-year-old house is planned for demolition and replacement.

6047 47TH SW: In Seaview, this 71-year-old house is planned for demolition and replacement.

6470 MARSHALL SW: Also in Seaview, this 95-year-old house is planned for demolition and replacement.

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Seattle microhousing has rules, definition, and a name – SEDUs – after unanimous City Council vote http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/seattle-microhousing-has-rules-definition-and-a-name-sedus-after-unanimous-city-council-vote/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/seattle-microhousing-has-rules-definition-and-a-name-sedus-after-unanimous-city-council-vote/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 23:37:36 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=287991

The city officially has rules for microhousing – or, if you prefer, SEDUs (small efficiency dwelling units). They’ve been in the works for months and, two weeks after the final committee discussion, won official, unanimous council approval this afternoon. Read the full bill here; here are the highlights from the city toplines featured our story about them last month:

*Creates a definition for small efficiency dwelling units (SEDU).

*Clarifies the definition of dwelling unit.

*Establishes required components of SEDUs, including a 150-square-foot minimum sleeping room area, a 220 square foot minimum total floor area, a food preparation area (sink, refrigerator, countertop, cooking appliance) and a bathroom (sink, toilet, shower or bathtub).

*Limits the issuance of Restricted Parking Zone permits to no more than one per SEDU or congregate residence sleeping room.

*Requires Streamlined Design Review to be applied, in all zones, to congregate residences and residential uses that are more than 50 percent comprised of SEDUs if they contain between 5,000 and 11,999 square feet of gross floor area.

*Limits the construction of congregate residences that do not meet certain ownership or operational requirements to higher density zones that are located within Urban Centers and Urban Villages

*Increases the minimum required area of communal space in a congregate residence from 10 percent of the total floor area of all sleeping rooms to 15 percent of the total floor area of all sleeping rooms.

*Creates a new vehicle parking requirement of one parking space for every two SEDUs for areas of the City where vehicle parking is required for multifamily residential uses.

*Increases bicycle parking requirements for SEDUs and congregate residences to 0.75 bicycle spaces per SEDU or congregate residence sleeping room.

*Requires the bicycle parking required for SEDUs and congregate residences to be covered for weather protection.

*Allows required, covered bicycle parking for SEDUs or congregate residence sleeping rooms to be exempt from Floor Area Ratio limits if the required parking is located inside the building that contains the SEDUs or congregate residence sleeping rooms.

*Calls on the Department of Planning and Development to complete an analysis of the City’s vehicle and bicycle parking requirements and present its recommendations for regulatory changes to the City Council by no later than March 31, 2015.

That last item, as we noted last month, goes beyond microhousing.

West Seattle has two microhousing buildings already open – Footprint Delridge and Footprint Avalon I – and three on the drawing board. As reported here two weeks ago, two of the not-yet-under-construction projects – at 3268 SW Avalon Way and 3050 SW Avalon Way – are on hold because of a court decision that would require them to go through Design Review, or undergo a significant redesign.

During this afternoon’s council meeting, discussion preceding the vote included a rebuke by West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen for city departments not catching “loopholes” he said developers exploited when first opening these projects here. (You can watch the discussion and vote in the archived Seattle Channel video atop this story; the vote is 71 minutes into the video.)

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