Seattle mayor proposes changes to increase affordable housing

Nov 16, 2022, 3:31 PM

seattle Harrell housing levy ballot...

The new levy is nearly three times higher than the levy passed by voters in 2016. The 2023 Housing Levy is expected to generate nearly 35% more units of affordable rental housing over the 2016 levy goals.. (Seattle City Council)

(Seattle City Council)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell recently proposed new affordable housing legislation with the goal of quickly developing more apartment buildings to address the city’s housing crisis.

“Seattle’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis demands bold action and creative solutions to more urgently create affordable housing,” Harrell said. “This legislation will reduce permitting bottlenecks so that the process is more swift, efficient, and consistent.”

If passed by the city council, the legislation would exempt affordable housing projects from design review, an extension of legislation originally developed as a part of the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

The bills are a collaboration between Harrell and City Councilmembers Dan Strauss and Teresa Mosqueda, who emphasize that the changes have already been proven to be effective in addressing the housing crisis.

“As has been proven during the course of the pandemic, we can unburden projects that create more homes from lengthy and expensive design review processes and produce high-quality housing that compliments and serves the community,” Mosqueda said.

Other changes include allowing all other housing projects to choose whether or not to hold a full design review or an administrative design review.

Gov. Inslee touts homeless housing successes, lays out new proposals

During the pandemic, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) was authorized to hold administrative design reviews allowing the permitting process to get sped up.

The current design regulation is set to expire on Dec. 30, and this new legislation would continue the exemption from design review without interruption.

The Harrell administration’s goal is for all affordable housing project permits to be approved within 12 months of submission.

“Seattle’s housing affordability and homelessness crises are interlinked. This recent UW study demonstrates important findings: Does housing affordability eliminate homelessness? No. Does it reduce homelessness five-fold? Yes. When we address housing affordability we are making our homelessness crisis more manageable.” Straus said.

The Seattle City Council’s Land Use Committee is scheduled to begin discussing this legislation Nov. 30 with a public hearing Dec. 8. A vote will likely be held on Dec. 13.

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Seattle mayor proposes changes to increase affordable housing