Seattle is transferring three parcels of surplus city land to nonprofit developers at no cost, becoming the first city to take advantage of a state program to make underutilized public land available for affordable housing development, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday.

The mayor signed into law the transfer of a piece of public land in Judkins Park to nonprofit developer Homestead Community Land Trust, which will develop 16 townhomes, including 10 affordable units.

The transfer of two other pieces of land owned by City Light – one in Phinney Ridge and another in Loyal Heights – is expected to be approved by the City Council in the coming days. Those will go to Homestead and to Habitat for Humanity to build 27 affordable condominiums and townhomes for qualifying low- and middle-income families, Durkan said in a press conference. The city will also pitch in a total of $2.22 million to help develop the sites.

“One of the things we have to do is put our public lands to work for the public,” Durkan said. “When we have lands that are available and suitable for housing, we have to find ways to use them for that.”

The city’s land transfer saves Homestead Community Land Trust about 20% of the total development costs for the 6,000-square-foot Phinney Ridge parcel, said executive director Kathleen Hosfeld in an interview. The developer expects it will cost $6.4 million to build 19 condominiums on the land, which has an appraised value of roughly $1.5 million.

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All of the homes will be sold to homeowners who are at or below 80% of the area median income, or $70,600 for a two-person household, with some homes going to households making less, said Office of Housing spokesperson Robin Koskey. The homes will cost roughly $250,000 — well below the $750,000 median home price in Ballard and Phinney Ridge, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service — and will be perpetually affordable: When they want to sell, owners agree to list their homes at prices set by the developer.


The city’s most recent land inventory charts dozens of large pieces of underused or vacant city-owned land potentially suitable for housing development. And public agencies are actively looking for other underused lands to transfer to developers, former House Speaker Frank Chopp, who helped pass the state bill enabling the transfers, said at the news conference. The three properties donated so far are at 1312–1326 Yakima Ave. S., 6109 Phinney Ave. N. and 7750 28th Ave. N.W.

This summer has been full of big news from the city on affordable development. In August, Durkan rolled out an initiative, Seattle Housing Now, to generate $50 million for affordable development from state sales-tax rebates and to renew the Multifamily Tax Exemption. In July, Durkan announced that some money from the $143 million sale of the Mercer Mega Block property in South Lake Union would go towards acquiring property for affordable development. And the city has studied putting affordable housing on municipal golf courses.

Durkan also announced today the nomination of the acting director of the Office of Housing, Emily Alvarado, to be the agency’s permanent leader. The office has been leaderless since the mid-July departure of former administrator Steve Walker. Alvarado still needs to be confirmed by the City Council.