Seattle Developers Will Have to Build Affordable Housing or Pay Fees

New legislation could create as many as 1,500 affordable units in the next decade. 

Downtown Seattle (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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Seattle apartment and condo developers will have to start building or funding affordable housing starting later this year, as part of a measure passed by Seattle City Council Monday.

The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that the affordable housing legislation — which Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called “historic” — passed 8-0, but the new rules won’t take effect until the council makes zoning changes to allow for more development and taller buildings.

This is the first time developers in the city will be required to create or fund affordable units. Over the next 10 years, builders will include around 1,500 affordable units in their projects or pay a total of $176 million to build about 2,200 new affordable units elsewhere, according to the city estimates. The Journal reports that exactly how many units builders will have to put into their projects will be determined later.

The measure represents Seattle’s latest attempt to tackle housing affordability and homelessness. A rapid influx of new people, including high-salaried tech workers, coupled with a lagging house market, has helped rents explode in recent years.

In 2014, Murray set a goal of creating 50,000 new units of housing in 10 years, 20,000 of which would be rent-restricted affordable units, and created a committee to draft policy recommendations to help achieve that goal. The mandatory requirements for developers were one of the citizen panel’s 65 policy recommendations.

“Far too many families and residents are either spending too much on housing or leaving Seattle altogether,” the mayor told the Seattle Times. “Thank you to City Council for passing this historic measure ensuring that as Seattle grows, we do so equitable and affordably.”

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Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.

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Tags: affordable housingseattle

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