VIDEO: HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning finalized by City Council. What happens now?

If you just looked at the unanimous final vote, you’d never guess that the Housing and Livability Agenda‘s Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning had traveled a long and sometimes-bumpy path before final City Council approval late today. (The Seattle Channel video above shows the three-hour council meeting, including 46 minutes o public comment.)

It dates back to an advisory committee convened in 2014 that delivered its report to then-Mayor Ed Murray in 2015. What he announced at the time as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing with a promise of 20,000 “affordable homes” in 10 years morphed to Mandatory Housing Affordability with an expectation of 6,000 affordable units in 10 years. In exchange for the upzoning – which in most cases adds an extra floor – developers must create affordable units either as a specified percentage of what they build or by paying the city a fee to fund affordable-housing projects. Here’s how today’s post-vote city news release explains “affordability”:

People must income-qualify for affordable housing; for example, an individual earning less than $42,150 will pay no more than $1,128 for a one-bedroom unit, while a family of four earning less than $60,200 will pay no more than $1,353 for a two-bedroom unit.

The upzoning affects commercial and multifamily property citywide, and some single-family-zoned property in or adjacent to urban villages. You can look up how – or if – the changes would affect any specific part of the city by using this map (but be aware that it doesn’t reflect some changes that were made toward the end of the review).

Today’s votes followed speeches by most councilmembers; West Seattle/South Park’s Lisa Herbold said that while she supports MHA, she remains deeply concerned that it will cause displacement, and her separate proposal on that front is pending. Another who spoke at length was citywide Councilmember Lorena González, whose remarks included how much she enjoys living in The Junction as a dense neighborhood with good access to transit, businesses, and services.

Next step is for Mayor Jenny Durkan to sign the MHA legislation into law (the bills finalized today are linked in the council news release); she issued a statement late today saying she’ll do that before the week is out. The legislation would then become law a month later.

The citywide coalition of community groups (including five from West Seattle) that lost its appeal of MHA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, SCALE, has issued a statement too. The group says it’s “considering appealing the inadequately considered impacts of the MHA legislation to the Growth Management Hearings Board.” (That state board is explained here.)

57 Replies to "VIDEO: HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning finalized by City Council. What happens now?"

  • Bradley March 19, 2019 (1:54 am)

    Awful news. More quality of life destruction for West Seattle.

    • The Honest Chap March 22, 2019 (9:18 pm)

      I am no coward, and will not remain anonymous. My name is Mike Rosen, I am a extremely well-educated veteran, apartment dweller who has lived in Miami, Berlin, Tel Aviv, CHI, NY, DC, Singapore, Lagos, & Windhoek. I work in the natural resource extraction field. I live in Oregon 42, and walk two dogs- a black one and a white one, so if you see me around the neighborhood don’t be a weak-punk B***h, and say what’s up.    l have never witnessed in any global city (SEA is not a global city) the self-minded NIMBYISM that brought this parochial-interest-based lawsuit to bear. Simply put, cities are for tall buildings, not houses. The denizens of Seattle have ignorantly avoided the “growth question” since their early 70s “Boeing Boom,” even in the wake of easy-peasy federal funding to expand infrastructure in the late 20th Century.   Such parochialism stems from the smug-minded socioeconomic & cultural ethos of this predominantly Caucasian city. I make $450,000 a year and love apartment living. I grew up in NYC and never would own a home because like many Millennials-like me, who spent the flower of their youth overseas observed that housing markets and home ownership is vulnerable to cyclical boom/bust market cycles. Do the easy math behind the Monte Carlo tables! have noticed that your average Lés Invalided Seattleite loves to tell others what to do merely because they have been classically conditioned within the comedically farcical cultural ignorance of the PNW.    If Seattle wants to continue to attract the world’s best; Ivy League educated, veterans- like me, who make butt-loads of money to run the companies that UW GRADS cannot, it requires economic refreshment and resource re-allocation . If you are planning to raise kids, and can’t afford to live in Seattle- the laws of economics state that you will be priced out of the market. To avoid this, financially plan your life better, or ask me for a loan when you see me waking my dogs.   Dear Middle-Class-White-WA-Person: You cannot have everything you want. Life is full of choices, and you sacrifice one decision for another temporal paradigm of existence. I look forward to moving into the apartment building that was built where your house used to lie and live next to me Ivy League- educates East Coast brothers and sisters.     

  • West Seattle Hipster March 19, 2019 (5:09 am)

    What happens now?  Developers and local politicians continue to prosper and housing costs and taxes continue to skyrocket.

    • John March 19, 2019 (7:53 am)

      HIPSTER,Please share with us what you know about those “local politicians [who] continue to prosper”?

      • The King March 19, 2019 (4:01 pm)

        I see where WS hipster is going with that statement, but often that information is hard to come by as Inslee has in the past (2017) vetoed budget proviso’s that asked why low income housing costs as much as $500,000 per unit to build. They don’t want people to know why it costs so much, they just want more money to build it. Accounting firms like Novogradac stand to make millions off of affordable housing here also and don’t want studies or investigations, just more money. It’s irresponsible and history won’t be kind to these people. 

  • RSL happy March 19, 2019 (6:03 am)

    I for one am glad it’s over after so many years. Some areas of West Seattle should be happy, getting zoned to RSL instead of LR is big. SCALE suing again?  Not surprising. If any members are parents, how will you teach your kids that sometimes you need to pick up your toys and play elsewhere?  Great example – showing that when you believe in something you stand up for it, bad example – not knowing when to stop because then it looks like you’re just a sore loser.

  • John March 19, 2019 (6:59 am)

    SCALE is just another sore (NIMBY) loser.  The group implies that the mayor is responsible for HALA, omitting that the entire city council unanimously approved HALA yesterday.It is time for the ‘head in the sand’ coalition to realize that it no longer can control Seattle’s growth by simply opposing development all the while claiming support for affordable housing as they oppose any options to address the issue.

  • TJ March 19, 2019 (7:04 am)

    What happens now is it’s over. It’s been decided, time to move on from it. And that means no more discussion for years on zoning. No “special exempions”, or any crudader council member pushing for more zoning changes still. Go away

  • KM March 19, 2019 (7:15 am)

    I can’t believe it took 5+ years to upzone 6% of the city (and some still have upzoning confused with eminent domain.) At this rate, we should have started on the other parts of the city 90+ years ago, when the city passed the first exclusionary zoning ordinance that segregated neighborhoods. Better start now.

  • DH March 19, 2019 (7:21 am)

    Great news! Hope we can move forward now and no, I’m not a developer or connected to that industry in any way. 

  • Mj March 19, 2019 (7:41 am)

    Rents for middle class residents go up, making things less affordable!

    • John March 19, 2019 (8:06 am)

      MJ,Just the facts please!  Supply versus demand speaks as rents peaked over a year ago as thousands of rental units poured into the market.  Now rental prices are actually declining. 

    • heartless March 19, 2019 (8:20 am)

      The average middle class family with kids in Seattle now makes over 160k.  All things considered, it’s okay if things are a little bit less affordable for them so that others may live with a roof over their heads.  

  • Neighbors March 19, 2019 (8:03 am)

    How long before the HALA shill rob johnson becomes a developer? Next the council will ask for more handouts from residents to make up for the MHA fees that won’t materialize. Next your cute neighborhoods and the diverse renters of single family homes will be kicked out so the developers who sold the Upzone lies about affordability can build expensive million dollar townhomes and “ADUs”. Affordability will not improve, and the bots supporting upzones will wage war for yet more upzones. They will never stop. They think they didn’t get theirs and they want yours.

  • John March 19, 2019 (8:45 am)

    For NEIGHBORS- “developers must create affordable units either as a specified percentage of what they build or by paying the city a fee to fund affordable-housing projects.”  So, it is either or.  MHA fees or affordable units.

  • Joyce March 19, 2019 (9:33 am)

    And now those of us that live in the upzone areas will need to leave the homes where we’ve raised our families and struggled to make ends meet, or risk being surrounded by construction, having our views blocked and neighborhood character eroded. It makes sense in theory, but ignores families that don’t want to move or sell to developers.

    • TSurly March 19, 2019 (10:59 am)

      You and your neighbors have total control over how this changes the character of your neighborhood. When the time comes, lets see if you sellout to a developer or stick to your principles.

    • Petere March 19, 2019 (2:41 pm)

      No, you do not “need to leave,” and I’m tired of that scare tactic. If you don’t want to more or sell, don’t. But that doesn’t give you control over what happens on neighboring properties. You own your property, not your neighbors’.

  • Cbj March 19, 2019 (9:40 am)

    Very sad can’t wait to fire Lisa.   Those of you who believe this will solve affordability and homelessness will learn in time that it won’t but will be to late for our community 

    • CMT March 19, 2019 (10:58 am)

      In all fairness, Lisa pushed for RSL rather than Lowrise for WS Junction single family areas because she is very concerned about displacement.

    • Peter March 19, 2019 (2:42 pm)

      Lisa Herbold did everything she could to water this down and was successful, which is one reason she won’t get my vote.

  • Mj March 19, 2019 (9:44 am)

    John – in response to you comment.  Say a developer proposes 100 apartment 2 bedroom units with rents of $2,000 a month.  Now they have to set aside 10% at say $1,000 a month, the remaining 90 units now would rent for $2,111 a month to make up the difference.MJ

    • HappyCamper March 19, 2019 (9:52 am)

      Unless supply increases to the point where it creates downward pressure on rent at market rates which have already seen happen

    • heartless March 19, 2019 (9:53 am)

      You don’t seem to understand the economics of the situation.  Whenever possible, people will charge the MOST they think they can get.  If someone thinks they could rent out a unit for $2,111 why on earth would they only be charging $2,000 in the first place?  Your scenario makes absolutely no sense! 

      • HappyCamper March 19, 2019 (6:00 pm)

        Or they think they can get $2100 and can’t so they have to charge $1900 to be competitive because of excess supply.

  • HW March 19, 2019 (9:49 am)

    still doesn’t solve for the actual problem for many – affordable housing for FAMILIES. Is a 4 person family going to cram into a 1 bedroom? There are no requirements to build 2 bedrooms or more and the developers are just going to optimize for space by making their affordable units as small as possible. Good for the childless but terrible for everyone else.

    • Neighbors March 19, 2019 (10:37 am)

      Yup. But the angry supporters of HALA were more often than not childless/anti-child urbanists anyway, who think children are an environmental problem and should be banned, too. Next up from Seattle council, 1-child limits within the city. Families are no longer welcome here- have a car (bad), want a house (bad), want green space yard (bad), have a kid and need more than a couple bedrooms (bad), according to many pro-HALA commenters at every meeting.

      • Caleb W. March 19, 2019 (11:41 am)

        Hi – I’m 36 and have a toddler with another on the way. Many of my friends also have small children and/or are expecting. As someone who is very familiar with the challenges of living in Seattle with small children, I can say with certainty that these changes are in no way “anti-child.” I know of zero people who have moved out of Seattle because of lack of “family” housing, but I know MANY who have left the city due to high housing prices (and after housing costs, the second biggest challenge is absolutely lack of child care, but that’s a separate issue). In my experience, these upzones are largely supported by younger residents who have or are nearing the age of having kids. It is certainly interesting that older residents with children that have moved out of the house or who have owned their homes for decades seem so willing to tell me and other young parents what is a family friendly policy or where it’s appropriate for us to live, yet continue to support policies that force us out of the city. Perhaps it’s time to listen to others?

        • HW March 19, 2019 (12:42 pm)

          Caleb – I think you are missing my point. I agree with you. I am your age, with small children not an old NIMBY as you suggest. People who leave the city leave because it is expensive, especially because housing and childcare are expensive. Some people want to leave. Good on them. Others do not and would prefer to live in Seattle, but cannot afford to. enter, HALA. HALA is supposed to ensure that there is at least SOME housing available that is reasonable for people on lower salaries. Except HALA doesn’t ensure that there is housing available for people with more than 2 people. It just says “build units.”  I wish they had made it a policy to require a set percentage of the affordable units be reasonable for housing >2 people. Without this, developers will build studios so they can maximize the amount of revenue they make.

        • HappyCamper March 19, 2019 (2:03 pm)

          Well said Caleb.

  • Peter March 19, 2019 (10:06 am)

    This is a good fist step, but it’s not even close to enough to meet our housing needs. We need a complete overhaul of our land use and zoning laws to allow more housing everywhere, not just in the very limited areas defined by HALA, and allowing much taller buildings is an absolute necessity.

  • Realworld March 19, 2019 (10:09 am)

    Another gift to greedy developers who care NOTHING about the average citizen. Watch them. they’ll build units no ordinary person can afford. Sure, they’ll pay a penalty but as stated above they’ll simply charge more. Anybody have PROOF they won’t? No mention as to when they’ll owe the money so give it 10 years before the city builds anything-if even then. Wouldn’t surprise me they use the money for something else.

    • Ron Swanson March 19, 2019 (12:25 pm)

      Why go off on a conspiracy theory bender when you could just look up the law?”Cash payments shall be made prior to issuance and as a condition to issuance of any permit after the first building permit for a development and before any permit for any construction activity…””Cash payments in lieu of affordable housing shall be deposited in a special account established solely to support the development of housing for Income-eligible households as defined in this Chapter 23.58A. Earnings on balances in the special account shall accrue to that account. The Director of Housing shall use cash payments and any earnings thereon to support the development of housing for income-eligible households…”

  • CMT March 19, 2019 (10:57 am)

    All single family areas in WSJ urban village went to RSL rather than LR.

    • Chemist March 19, 2019 (2:22 pm)

      Yes, they were upzoned to RSL which commits the areas to the MHA pricing structure.  Step 2 is for Sound Transit’s stations to be locked down a bit more and then zoning will be examined closer and more dramatic density increases appropriately located.  At the same time, if Sound Transit has to buy properties to build the ST3 project, they have a window of being able to buy properties that are only zoned for RSL developments rather than 15 story buildings.

      • Junctionite March 19, 2019 (2:51 pm)

         The City Council just wants to make it cheaper for Sound Transit if and when they decide to seize our homes for light rail development, there was no other reason that the WSJ urban village went to RSL from LR. 

      • Jethro Marx March 19, 2019 (3:32 pm)

        These theories about Sound Transit conspiring to rip off homeowners are funny, because they assume ST has an incentive to be stingy; they have, as Miss Eliza Bennett would say, quite the opposite. Their budget is literally unlimited, and their source is the very pockets they would be shorting. Property owners of upzoned parcels and the path of the train will reap monetary benefits and their whining is the very epitome of first world problems. You didn’t know there could be tall buildings and lessened views in your future? You ought to have moved to Easton rather than Seattle.

      • CMT March 19, 2019 (3:42 pm)

        Just to clarify, Lisa Herbold advocated for RSL because of well-founded concerns regarding displacement under the original higher density proposal, not as Step 1 for ultimate larger rezones for the same footprint as MHA.  There may ultimately be significant and appropriate zoning capacity increases as a result of ST3 and taking into account station proximity.  However, hopefully the future zoning changes will be far more judicious (think scalpel rather than sledgehammer) than the original MHA proposal.  Fortunately, it is unlikely that the City will be able to fly under the radar with future zoning proposals now that people are paying attention.

  • ACG March 19, 2019 (12:08 pm)

    I have a feeling a lot of developers will just pay the fee and build what they want. No affordable housing there, if that is the goal of this whole legislation.  The thing that gets me is that the fees that the developers pay go into the government coffer, and relies on the governnent to then create affordable housing. I have no faith whatsoever that those funds will be used in a timely or efficient fashion to establish affordable housing. So, the so-called goal that this whole process is supposed to attain will not be met. Yet the development will have been done. Sigh. 

    • Ron Swanson March 19, 2019 (3:02 pm)

      The city’s economic model says that 5/6 of the new units will be built with the fee income versus built as part of market-rate developments.  That’s honestly probably a better outcome: non-profit developers can get state and federal matching funds and grants to leverage the city funding.  

      • CMT March 19, 2019 (7:18 pm)

        You might think it is a better outcome … except the purported justification of MHA was to ensure that low income folks would now be able to live in so-called high opportunity neighborhoods with amenities and services NOT live in subsidized housing where land is cheap.  Time will tell but it appears (and has always appeared)  that MHA in most areas will likely further marginalize the low income populations, both be displacing existing residents and by locating the MHA affordable housing outside of the desirable neighborhoods and ensuring that only the higher income can afford the rezoned areas.  Hopefully WSJ’s RSL zoning will minimize that.

        • Ron Swanson March 19, 2019 (8:49 pm)

          At this point, there are no undesirable areas in Seattle except the camps in the greenbelts.  As long as the MHA funding is spent within city limits, which appears to be required, it’s better to get more units for the $.

          • CMT March 19, 2019 (9:35 pm)

            Notwithstanding your own opinion on what is better, that was not the representation made to garner support for upzoning the “high opportunity” areas – access to the amenities in those areas for folks who otherwise could not afford to live there was.

          • CMT March 19, 2019 (9:43 pm)

            I should have said “high opportunity,” a defined term in MHA, rather than “desirable,” a subjective term.  The City does not identify all areas in Seattle as  “high opportunity.”

          • Ron Swanson March 20, 2019 (8:42 am)

            “high opportunity” is subjective as well.  Whatever they need to tell themselves to get the social justice types on board.  The key thing is more units ASAP.

  • HappyCamper March 19, 2019 (12:08 pm)

    It seems as though the people against adding density in this form are unwilling to entertain the notion that there is even a morsel of good intent in the MHA framework.Neighborhood specific sounds great on paper until you end up with a million conflicting views and nothing measurable gets done. They are the CITY council and each member lobbied for amendments in their district and pretty much won all of them. That is the process and that is compromise.IMHO the most equitable method is to alter zoning in some way city wide to evenly distribute growth and the “burden” if you will but that went over like a lead balloon. 

  • dhg March 19, 2019 (12:40 pm)

    I thought Herbold had agreed to not upscale the Fauntleroy triangle but it now appears they will be allowed to build 4 stories with no parking.  That will be a huge detriment to the neighborhood.

    • ACG March 20, 2019 (10:31 am)

      Thanks for pointing that out, dhg. I didn’t realize that Herbold wasn’t able to come through on the Fauntleroy triangle. That’s a a big disappointment, for sure. 

  • Luis Borella March 19, 2019 (12:46 pm)

    What a sad moment for Seattle.  Not Hala, Not MHA, Not those for this or those against it.  What is sad, in my humble opinion, is what has become of the government here in the city and maybe in general.  This country was founded on the idea of a representative democracy.  We, the people, vote for our representatives and we ask them to govern for us, to represent us, gather more information from both sides than any of us will ever have.  We ask them to govern.  If, the majority, feels that they have not been represented then they have the opportunity toremove those elected for someone who better represents the majority.  It is a great idea.  The City Council was elected by the majority to do exactly what they have done.  The Mayor the same.  But, we now live in a time when policy is set by someone with enough money and enough of a view to challenge this legally.  Or, on the other side, someone with a small property and an opportunity to make a fortune selling it to a developer.  Our representatives no longer able to do what they were elected to do.  And then, forums like this, with  almost nobody willing to have the courage to put their own name to a thought, spew misinformation on both sides.  It is a sad thing to see, to be a part of.  

    • heartless March 19, 2019 (3:17 pm)

      I agree with much of what you said, but I have to say that I’m not sure why you care if people use handles (versus “real” names) on this forum–frankly, I’m not sure what benefit you think using actual names would have.  The arguments and statements we make here should stand on their, so why does it matter what someone’s parents named them lo these many years ago?

      • WSB March 19, 2019 (3:39 pm)

        Years ago there was a contention that people were somehow more civil and more thoughtful if they were commenting under their names. I’ve amply observed real-names-required/membership-required social media showing quite the opposite. Meantime, people are absolutely welcome to use their names here if they choose. – Tracy

        • KM March 19, 2019 (6:11 pm)

          Thanks Tracy. I think keeping it optional helps prevent people from being doxxed for their takes on housing, biking, homelessness and other topics (as has happened on other platforms). Plus, you can always remove whichever comments you so choose as it is your site. I always wonder what it would have been like to grow up “online.” I have a lot of sympathy for our younger generations.

    • PatsFan March 20, 2019 (7:42 am)

      I actually think the mayor and the council is doing exactly what the people that elected them wanted them to do.  Remember that the majority of voters – particularly those that actually vote – are renters, younger people, less likely to be the ones hurt by this legislation.  If you look at the polls around attitudes towards socialism, there is a generational shift towards open embrace of it – that individuals shouldn’t necessarily own as much and more of a shared obligation / benefit.  It’s also reflected at the national level.  The sad thing is that this isn’t really about making the electorate happy, but that the special interests figured out a way to leverage that energy.

      • Ron Swanson March 20, 2019 (8:43 am)

        Yes, wanting more places for people to live is really a “special interest”

Sorry, comment time is over.