A Seattle City Council committee recommended approval of an ordinance key to Mayor Ed Murray’s housing agenda — after making changes and despite opposition from some in the real-estate industry.

Share story

The Seattle City Council’s land-use committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend approval of an ordinance key to Mayor Ed Murray’s housing agenda — after making changes to it despite opposition from some real-estate-industry players.

The legislation, if approved by the full council Aug. 15, would set a framework for the residential part of Murray’s proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability program.

The program would require developers to include some affordable housing in their projects or pay fees to help the city build affordable housing elsewhere.

Mandatory Housing Affordability would take effect only after the approval of rezones in neighborhoods across Seattle to allow larger, taller buildings.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

The council hasn’t begun considering the rezones, nor has it begun setting the fees and inclusion requirements that the developers would abide by.

The council approved a framework for commercial developers last year. In recommending the framework for residential developers Tuesday, the land-use committee seemed to brush aside lobbying by the real-estate-industry players.

The committee passed an amendment saying the city would consider setting higher-than-ordinary fees and inclusion requirements in areas where the rezones likely would increase the risk of existing residents being displaced or increase the risk of existing affordable housing being demolished.

The vote was 5-0, with Councilmembers M. Lorena González, Tim Burgess, Mike O’Brien, Lisa Herbold and Rob Johnson, the committee’s chair, weighing in.

“This program is one of the most ambitious efforts Seattle has ever undertaken to address our growing need for affordable housing in our city,” Johnson said. “This bill sets the stage to create affordable housing that will stay affordable for 75 years to serve current residents and future generations of Seattleites.”

The Coalition for Housing Solutions, representing developers such as Paul Allen’s Vulcan, along with architects, land-use attorneys and business groups had warned the council members against such a move.

In a letter on behalf of the coalition, lawyer Jack McCullough had said such changes would break last year’s so-called grand bargain, in which the coalition agreed with Murray and low-income-housing developers to back Mandatory Housing Affordability.

In the letter, McCullough reminded Johnson that his clients had “provided financial support measured in six figures” to the campaign for a new housing levy and to Seattle for Everyone, an effort to rally public support for Murray’s overall housing agenda.

Before the committee vote, Johnson told reporters his goal is to create as much affordable housing as possible. McCullough didn’t immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

Maud Daudon, president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which has belonged to the coalition, did comment.

“We think the bargain is still intact at this point. We will keep our eyes on the (rezones) ordinances to ensure they do not undermine the principles of the bargain,” Daudon said.

“Displacement is occurring now, without this program in place or any rezones. Moving forward with (the program) and its resulting affordable units should help reduce the current rate of displacement.”

The mayor hailed Tuesday’s vote as a “significant milestone.”

Besides the displacement and demolition amendment, which was sponsored by O’Brien and Herbold, the committee passed a number of others.

One would keep rents capped at affordable units created by the program for 75 years, rather than 50.

O’Brien had proposed an amendment last week saying the city wants to achieve — outside of downtown and South Lake Union — an even split between projects with affordable units on-site and projects yielding fees.

He and Johnson on Tuesday scrapped the even-split goal. The committee instead passed an amendment saying the city would track the split, though.