To create affordable housing, City Council considers fee hike for developers building downtown
Private developers building in downtown Seattle may soon be required to pay higher fees if they choose not to include affordable housing when building residential towers.
The Seattle City Council is considering legislation that would require developers to set aside 5 percent of a new building’s square-footage for affordable units or pay $22.88 per square foot into the city’s affordable housing fund. Currently developers downtown pay $18.75 per square foot.
The requirements, known as incentive zoning, apply when a developer wants to build higher than zoning typically allows.
The new requirements would bring downtown Seattle in line with zoning requirements established in June for the South Lake Union neighborhood. The requirements were added to a rezoning package that would allow more residential high-rises in the growing neighborhood, where Amazon and other large tech companies are headquartered.
The proposed legislation spreads the higher fees to the rest of downtown, but does not dramatically increase the fees as some housing advocates have requested. The city council will studying incentive housing fees in January and may consider higher fees in 2014.
“This is really just an interim measure,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien.
The city council is spending $200,000 to have a consultant study the fee and determine whether the council can require more of developers without slowing economic growth in the region.
The city council’s Energy and Environment Committee discussed the current proposal Sept. 24 and expects to pass it out of committee before Thanksgiving. O’Brien expects the legislation will pass without much debate, because it only spreads the requirement to the rest of downtown.
Councilmember Nick Licata has proposed that developers could pay as much as $96 per square foot, more than three times the rate set in South Lake Union and proposed for the rest of downtown. Other cities set fees that high or require that as many as 50 percent of the units in a new development be affordable.
An estimated 5 percent of the new construction will be affordable under Seattle’s rules, whether it’s built in the neighborhood or paid as a fee for the city to use to build elsewhere. Seattle’s comprehensive plan calls for a third of all housing to be affordable by 2031.
The city defines the cost of affordable housing as no more than one-third of the income of someone making 80 percent of the area median income.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.