September 2, 2015

HALA in Seattle: Rental Housing and the Grand Bargain

Yet another announcement on the ‘Grand Bargain’ that came out of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) task force, made up of Seattle’s developers, housing advocates and policy wonks.

From KPLU today:

As Seattle Grows,”Grand Bargain” With Developers Would Require Affordable Housing


As Seattle grows, the city council and the mayor want to require funding for affordable housing units with all new developments. …

The proposal comes from the city’s 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda advisory committee. It  would allow bigger or taller buildings in some parts of Seattle, in exchange for the mandatory inclusion of affordable units in all new construction – or fees to help fund them. The committee estimates it will create 6,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years.

“And for the first time ever, as people build and develop in Seattle, they’ll be required to build and develop affordable housing,” Mayor Murray said at the unveiling. “This is the first time that the private sector will actually build the affordable housing – not just non-profit organizations.”

People making up to about $38,000 per year could qualify for the affordable units, which would rent out for an average of about $1,000 per month for a one-bedroom.

In exchange, Seattle will look for new ways to allow more capacity for builders, for example, granting permits for an extra 1,000 square feet per floor downtown or in South Lake Union.

Outside the downtown core, new buildings would be allowed approximately one additional story in height.

Developer A-P Hurd with Touchstone said the fee structure is more predictable. And the new capacity is crucial in helping new projects pencil out.

“And with 20,000 people moving here last year, we’re the fastest-growing city in the nation. We need to create units so that all the people who move here do get a place to live,” Hurd said.


Here’s the press release from City Hall, with more technical details:

There are two major components to the “Grand Bargain.” The first establishes an Affordable Housing Impact Mitigation Program (AHIMP) – commonly referred to as a commercial linkage fee – that will directly fund the construction of new affordable housing by requiring developers to pay a fee on every square foot of new commercial development. The linkage fee will range from $5 to $17 per square foot, based on the size and location of the commercial development. – See more here..

Seattle housing


The second part of the “Grand Bargain” calls for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) for new multifamily developments, requiring five to eight percent of units be affordable for residents earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for 50 years. In 2015, 60 percent of AMI is $37,680 for an individual and $53,760 for a family of four. As an alternative to on-site units, developers can pay a fee to construct new affordable housing offsite.

Seattle housing


Questions for Vancouver:

  • Do we face the same challenges as Seattle?  If not, what’s different?
  • What are our programs for housing affordability, and how do they differ?
  • Are their technical or legal impediments that prevent us from undertaking similar initiatives?
  • Do we need provincial approvals or support to do so?
  • What are the positions of the development community?

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  1. Why do we continue to demand levels upon levels of underground parking at great expense in neighbourhoods next to skytrain and walk score paradises like the West End. Please don’t tell me the benefits of 3 Modo car shares offset this

  2. “Do we face the same challenges as Seattle?”

    Seattle looks to be at the stage Vancouver was 20 years ago, except Seattle looks to be tackling affordability issues far sooner than Vancouver finally has with the inclusionary zoning (or rezoning) for the DTES Oppenheimer district.

    Speaking of which, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of proposals being put forward so far in Oppenheimer. Meanwhile a few blocks away, Chinatown is booming. What gives?

  3. The Grand Bargain? More like the Great Capitulation: Another city folds in the face of pressure from the single-family nimby crowd.

  4. I view with some trepidation how this additional bulk will be handled in Seattle, which IMO has far too clunky and chunky buildings as it is. I wish them well, in any event.

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