Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Myths & Facts

Myth: The massive Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) zoning changes (“upzoning”) are necessary to meet Seattle’s housing goal of an additional 70,000 units by 2035.

Fact: Existing zoning, without changes, allows for over 220,000 new housing units which far exceeds the housing goal.

Fact: The current Seattle building boom has provided over 12,000 new living units in the past year. An additional 26,000 units are scheduled to come on line in the next 3 years.

Myth: MHA developer incentives will ensure more affordable housing units.

Fact: MHA requires developers to either provide 6% to 10% of units as affordable, or pay $13.25 to $22.25 per square-foot of Gross Floor Area to the Seattle Office of Housing. Developers can pay the fee rather than provide on-site affordable housing.

Fact: For a typical new apartment project, MHA only provides 1 to 3 affordable housing units.

Fact: Existing affordable housing will be demolished and replaced with unaffordable market rate rental units. Both low & middle income residents will be displaced from their homes.

Myth: Current infrastructure is adequate to support the increased housing density mandated by MHA zoning changes.

Fact: The City has no plans or funding to address already-overcrowded schools, inadequate space for parks and playgrounds, congested streets, lack of parking, police capacity, and needs for community and senior centers.

Fact: The City can impose Impact Fees now on new development to mitigate the negative impacts on crucial infrastructure (schools, transportation, and parks). Most municipalities in Washington State charge impact fees to address the real costs of housing growth.

Myth: Developer impact fees are illegal, and are not needed anyway.

Fact: Under Washington State Law, cities may charge impact fees to fund schools, transportation, parks and recreation, and fire facilities. Impact fees cannot be used for housing, but may make available other funds for affordable housing.

Fact: Impact fees paid by developers are a solution that most cities in King County (Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, Federal Way, and Shoreline) use to fund the increased infrastructure needed for the growth in housing.

Fact: The City continues to put the burden of growth on property owners in the form of property tax levies. Over 47% of the property tax in Seattle is the result of levies. This will increase to over 50% with the addition of Sound Transit 3 taxes in 2017.

Fact: Impact fees require developers to pay for the impacts of development, not just the general property tax payer.

Myth: HALA is the only way to achieve affordable housing.

Fact:  Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp brought a group of well-regarded Seattle housing advocates together to form the Community Housing Caucus. They released a white paper to Mayor Murray and the City Council in March, 2015 which focused on over twenty ways to address the affordable housing crisis in Seattle.  Click here to read the paper, “Solutions to Seattle’s Housing Emergency

If you care about sensible housing density growth, livability including adequate schools, parks, sewers, parking, aging in place capabilities, and preserving the character of Wallingford then it is critical to get involved.

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