Seattle City Council passes laws to increase volume of affordable housing

Jul 6, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:29 pm

affordable housing...

(MyNorthwest File Photo)

(MyNorthwest File Photo)

A suite of bills in a legislative package was passed by the Seattle City Council Wednesday with the goal to increase the stock of affordable rental and for-sale housing.

The laws will exempt design reviews and were designed to increase efficiency in permitting and decrease the amount of time it takes to build affordable housing.

“We cannot allow self-imposed city processes to delay building the affordable homes Seattleites need,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss, the Chair of the Land Use Committee, in a press release. “Our legislation cuts bureaucratic red tape to speed the delivery of housing projects and homeownership opportunities. I’m proud to partner with Mayor Harrell and sponsor this legislation because the family I grew up in should be able to afford to live in the Seattle of today, and tomorrow.”

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This legislative package was proposed by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell last month and was passed out of Land Use Committee June 28.

The bills passed

Included was Bill 120591, which codifies the temporary exemptions from design review that were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce bottlenecks that slow down and increase the cost of building production. Future projects are still subject to Seattle’s building and land use codes alongside regular health and safety requirements.

Council Bill 120581 provides further temporary provisions to the permit review process and creates more exemptions from design review.

“We have to build more affordable housing and build affordable housing more quickly,” Harrell said. “Reducing barriers and creating a more efficient permitting process to expedite construction is an important part of our comprehensive approach to meeting Seattle’s urgent housing needs.”

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Multiple state bills promoting housing production and streamlining the permitting process were passed during the last legislative session in Olympia. Earlier this year, HB 1293 was passed to shorten design review process timelines statewide. Another bill, SB 5412, exempts the construction of new housing from the SEPA process while preserving SEPA reviews at the land use policy and planning level.

“This legislation enables us to more quickly build desperately needed affordable homeownership opportunities that create stability, equity, and opportunity for first-time homebuyers,” said Kathleen Hosfeld, Executive Director of Homestead Community Land Trust. “We are deeply grateful to the Council and the Office of Housing for working together so that we can more effectively address the harms of redlining, restrictive covenants, and sky-high housing costs.”

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Seattle City Council passes laws to increase volume of affordable housing