Affordable Housing Legislation Nearing the Home Stretch

New housing on Seattle’s Dexter Ave.

The long-studied Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) is moving to the top of the Seattle City Council’s agenda. MHA requires new multifamily construction to pay include on-site affordable housing or pay into a housing fund. (Single-family construction is exempt, because reasons.)

Former Mosqueda staffer Mike Maddux had a great analysis of each of the amendments and how each of the council members approached the task differently when it came to their particular district:

So here we are with a series of amendments, most of which would limit the ability of MHA specifically, and affordable home development broadly, to be successful, but in different ways. I’ve broken these out into the District 1 amendments, the District 6 amendments, the Historic District carve-outs, and some miscellaneous amendments. Of note: District 3 managed to get away with no amendments for limiting growth, and District 7 no amendments at all. Essentially these two areas are taking growth (and happen to be the most expensive areas to build).

Kevin Schofield has a solid rundown of the political battle lines:

In each case, the Council member representing that district went to bat for the reduction: Herbold for West Seattle Junction and Morgan Junction, Harrell for Beacon Hill, Johnson for Roosevelt and Wallingford, and O’Brien for Crown Hill. But on the flip side, the two city-wide Council members, Mosqueda and Gonzalez, held firm in their desire to maximize the upzones wherever possible and resist reductions. Council member Juarez joined them in the resistance; Baghsaw was conspicuously silent on the matter, and Sawant was absent from the meeting.

Both are worth reading if you want to understand where things stand. With Bagshaw and nominally pro-density Sawant as the swing votes, it’s possible all these amendments get voted down next week.

It’s not the most novel piece of analysis to add that MHA is both necessary and insufficient. It’s hugely regrettable that Mayor Murray dropped single-family zones so early on. It’s puzzling that three lame-duck council members are being so hostile to zoning changes. Furthermore, it’s terrible policy that the EIS is a one-way ratchet: in the bizarro world of our state environmental policy, up-zoning causes impacts but downzoning causes none.

There will be a public hearing this Thursday at 5:30pm at City Hall with a vote likely for Monday the 25th. You can also contact the council and let them know your thoughts.