The Seattle City Council voted this week to rezone the city's Downtown and South Lake Union neighborhoods. The proposed changes reflected the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements of Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) plan that aims to increase overall housing production across the city, with a special focus on the development of affordable and rent-controlled units. The plan, as adopted, calls for the creation of up to 2,100 affordable units as a result of the Downtown and South Lake Union rezones. However, because MHA does not mandate developers build affordable units in the newly-rezoned neighborhoods, it is impossible to know if those affordable units will be located there or elsewhere in the city. The upzoning measures in these neighborhoods will allow proposed buildings, generally speaking, higher maximum heights and, for some areas, it will allow a greater floor-to-area (FAR) ratio as well. Downtown and South Lake Union make up the second set of Seattle neighborhoods to undergo upzoning as a part of the plan. The U-District surrounding the University of Washington campus was rezoned earlier this year. The plan is to increase zoning in over two dozen neighborhoods across the city over the next few years with the aim of ultimately adding an estimated 6,000 new affordable units, overall. Generally speaking, the plan mandates developers to either include a certain percentage of new units as affordable housing—two to five percent of the new dwelling units produced through the zoning changes in the Downtown and South Lake Union districts—or pay a certain price per square foot of new construction into a fund that will be used by the city to develop the units somewhere in the city. For the newly-rezoned districts, those fees average between $5.50 to $13 per square foot of new construction, considerably lower than the $5 to $32.75 per square foot to be mandated in other areas. The discrepancy, according to the Seattle Times, arose because of the mayor’s so-called “grand bargain,” that sought to wrest funds and affordable units from developers without depressing the overall production of market rate units. The new zoning measures are due to bring widespread urban change for the growing region, which like many other metro areas across the country, is suffering from staggering rent increases, housing shortfalls, and a shortage of high-density, pedestrian- and mass-transit-oriented neighborhoods.
Posts tagged with "Upzoning":
The Seattle City Council unanimously voted yesterday to approve a long-planned increase in overall residential and commercial zoning densities in the city’s University District neighborhood. The plan will allow certain areas of the neighborhood around the campus of the University of Washington to rise up to between 240- and 320-feet in height and will mandate new developments set aside nine percent of new units as affordable. The region is bubbling over with development and has absorbed roughly 700,000 new inhabitants between 2000 and 2014. Seattle is also home to a slew of tech companies like Amazon and—perhaps most importantly—recently passed a ballot initiative aimed at expanding the length of its transit system by a factor of five. Though the change toward higher-density development has been controversial with some residents, it was strongly supported by housing activists from across the political spectrum. The zoning change is expected to bring roughly 5,000 new housing units across a broad swath of medium-to-low density areas surrounding the university. The University District—which will be connected to the region’s growing Sound Transit system in 2021 when the Northgate Link Extension opens through the neighborhood—is poised to act as a test run for Mayor Ed Murray’s plans to get developers to build additional affordable housing. It’s not a bad deal for the developers, either: The plan will neither require affordable units be built on site nor in the same neighborhood. If developers do not wish to build the affordable units themselves, they will be able to contribute funding so that the city’s Office of Housing can build them. The new measure, called Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) is part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) plan, which is focused around the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Planning document, a guide that envisions a region-wide urban agglomeration collected around “urban villages” organized along the Sound Transit system. The HALA plan aims to generate up to 50,000 new housing units—20,000 of which would be affordable—across the city by 2025. Of those 20,000 affordable units, it is expected that MHA will generate about 6,300 units. For the University District, that means roughly 5,000 new units overall, including between 600 and 900 affordable apartments. As the first section of the city rezoned under HALA, officials and the public will be watching how the neighborhood changes very closely. The up-zone measure was passed with a caveat allowing for it to be revisited in the future, depending on the nature of change in the area. The City of Seattle is expected to begin to rezone the entire city in 2018, with four other districts undergoing the rezoning process this year.
The de Blasio Administration has unveiled new details for one of the most significant pieces of its ambitious affordable housing plan: the rezoning of Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. As New York YIMBY reported, the administration announced that it would “upzone” a stretch of Atlantic Avenue to create what it calls a “growth corridor” that could accommodate residential development up to 12 stories. Moderate density development for surrounding blocks is proposed to support “affordable and mixed-income housing, retail, businesses, and community facilities near transit.” On smaller-scale side streets, the administration hopes to preserve the neighborhood’s existing character by continuing to allow “low scale duplexes, single-family homes and rowhouses.”