Seattle is working on a policy that will allow larger buildings with affordable housing to be developed on sites owned by religious organizations, such as churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Wednesday.

Many such organizations are proponents of affordable housing. Some need less space than before and some also have underused properties, like parking lots that are empty most of the time.

For example, a nonprofit developer recently replaced University Christian Church’s parking lot in the University District with 133 affordable apartments.

Faith-based organizations own more than 300 acres of land in Seattle, according to the Durkan administration.

Washington state lawmakers passed a bill last year that requires cities to allow extra density for affordable housing on sites owned or controlled by religious organizations, and Seattle’s policy will respond to that requirement.

For such sites in zones where the city allows apartments, the policy will likely allow taller buildings with more apartments than would otherwise be permitted.


For sites in zones where the city normally allows only detached houses, the policy will likely allow denser development, such as townhouses.

For example, 20 apartments could be built on a site associated with a religious organization, rather than 15. Similarly, eight townhouses could be built on a site associated with a religious organization, rather than one detached house.

The apartments built at such sites would be reserved for 50 years for households making less than 80% of the area’s median income (currently $88,000 per year for a family of four), with rents to match.

The Durkan administration is still working on the details and intends to send the policy to the City Council for approval early next year.

The administration is asking faith-based organizations, developers and community members to provide input by emailing planners Nick Welch ( and Daniel Murillo (