Downtown Developers Getting a Pass on Affordable Housing Requirements

by Susanna Lin

Why are the onsite requirements for affordable housing so low in Downtown and SLU? As low as TWO percent? Seriously. According to a report entitled Seattle Affordable Housing Incentive Program Economic Analysis (see page 17), a 5% on-site requirement is “modest” and will not have a long-term impact on development feasibility.

City staff has said the fee is lower because high rises are more expensive to build. But other cities with similar programs, many of which also have tall buildings, have much higher percentages:
● New York City: 20-30%
● Chicago: 10%
● San Francisco: 12%
● Boston: 15%

This rezone is supposed to generate 2,100 affordable housing units. This is about ⅓ of the MHA goal. But why is downtown only producing ⅓ of the affordable units when it has 75% of Seattle’s development capacity?

I question the influence of downtown developers like Vulcan. Are we really to believe that Paul Allen, and others like him, cannot afford to set aside 5% or 10% of their units as affordable? I bet he could do so without even having to sell his yacht (which by the way costs $250 million and is called “Octopus.”) Downtown developers are getting a pass on providing a meaningful amount of affordable housing.

References:
http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/meetingrecords/2014/plus20141014_1d.pdf
http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/mih/mandatory-inclusionary-housing.page
http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cs/groups/pan/@pan/documents/web_informational/p2182731.pdf

http://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=4843356&GUID=04BA09AA-C80E-41BF-98EF-3963A9566912

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