City More Affordable Housing, or Just Taller Buildings?
posted by September 11 at 10:13 AMon
If it works, a plan from Mayor Greg Nickels’s office will create more affordable housing and increase building heights in neighborhoods across the city. But critics say that as the proposal is currently written, the housing benefits are negligible.
The plan takes a formula already in use downtown, which allows developers to build taller in exchange for funding affordable housing, and applies it to new housing citywide. For example, developers who want to build taller in South Lake Union would have to dedicate some of the extra stories to affordable housing, or put money into an affordable housing fund.
But because the mayor’s proposal only requires developers to dedicate 11 percent of the new height to affordable housing, some advocates for low-income people are skeptical that it will do any good. “I don’t see this as a plan that would increase the number of affordable homes,” says Anna Markee, outreach director of the Housing Development Consortium, which represents nonprofit housing developers Markee says the city council should increase the affordable-housing requirement to at least 20 and as much as 30 percent. (Affordable, in this case, works out to more than $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.) Markee says there should also be more incentive for developers to build actual affordable housing, instead of paying into the affordable housing fund. Others, such as John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, say any incentive to build taller could backfire by encouraging developers to tear down affordable housing that already exists.
Markee and Fox may find support in City Council Member Sally Clark, chair of the city’s land-use committee. “I think 11 percent is too low,” Clark says. “Even in the market right now, I’m more interested in looking at figure that is around 20 percent.” The mayor’s office will send the legislation down to Clark’s committee next week.