It's an exciting week in Seattle. For the first time in Seattle's history, we are requiring developers to pay for more affordable housing. The framework was set awhile back, and with the zoning changes in the University District, we are implementing this new structure of building more affordable homes for low-income families when a property is redeveloped (instead of the current model wherein the property is redeveloped, and all of the affordable units are just gone forever).
Of course, as we are going on a housing binge, there remains a dearth of one type of housing in Seattle - Family Friendly Housing. Everyone acknowledges that the majority of housing being built would be suitable for a single person or a couple, but there really isn't a lot of new inventory in the 2-4 bedroom range. Let's say you live with your kid in the city, and your kid is 14, separate bedrooms are a must. I've been told 2 bedroom units aren't even family friendly. I disagree. But that's a separate argument - because today we are back in the HALA recommendations, and starting on page 28, I'm going to learn more about the proposals for more Family Friendly Housing and Parking today.
Promoting Family Friendly Housing (FF)
FF.1 - Formalize family-sized units and/or family-friendly housing design
This recommendation would have the city actually put in place "clear criteria" for what constitutes Family Friendly Housing. There is a good purpose to this: with this criteria (whether it's total square footage, total bedrooms, a separate bathroom for teenagers that nobody else in the unit ever has to use because...teenagers, or some combination), the city can then promote Family Friendly Housing through incentives and other programs. So basically: for legal purposes, let's actually define this term.
FF.2 - Maintain a family-friendly housing focus when implementing other housing actions
If I'm reading this right, this proposal basically suggests that incentives should be primarily focused on more family-sized housing, not just more housing generally. The idea being that zoning changes will likely spur (or should) more housing development and, with MHA, more affordable housing included in that development. So tailoring incentives for studio and 1 BR apartments really doesn't make as much sense. An example used includes the MFTE, where (if memory serves) we have already changed it to 25% of units being rent-restricted at rents affordable to folks at 80% AMI, or 20% if a certain amount of those units are family-sized. Not only does this encourage more folks opting for the 20%, but also encourages more development generally of family-sized units, which are greatly needed in our city.
FF.3 - Family-sized Housing Action Plan
It's Seattle - of course we need an Action Plan! We love Action Plans! And this recommendation calls for one specifically directed to focus on building and preserving more family-size units in Seattle.
Lesson here: If you hate family-size housing, then HALA definitely is not for you.
Next in the report is one of two sections devoted to parking. Seattle City Council Member Rob Johnson wrote his thesis on parking. These are facts.
Prk.1 - Reduce parking requirements for multifamily housing outside of Urban Villages or Centers
Current requirements for parking outside of urban villages in multifamily construction is 1 parking stall for each unit of housing. This recommendation calls for reducing that (not eliminating it) in circumstances where a multifamily development is near frequent transit or other "services or community resources."
Prk.2 - Do not re-introduce parking mandates in Urban Villages or Centers
Literally what it says. Despite having no parking requirement, most of the development going on in Urban Village boundaries is also producing parking. Often more than it needs. While there are continuously calls for reintroducing parking requirements by some for housing near light-rail, this recommendation calls for declining to do so, with an acknowledgment that even without the requirement, the parking is still being built.
Prk.3 - Definition of Frequent Transit Service
The term "Frequent Transit Service" is not well defined in the code, and "averaging" service has been tossed by a hearing examiner. This recommendation basically says the city should stop being ambiguous, and clearly define the term.
Prk.4 - Remove the parking requirement for smaller format housing types in single family areas
This couples up with the proposal to allow duplexes and triplexes in SF areas of the city, basically saying there shouldn't be a 1:1 parking per housing requirement in areas that have this low-density residential zoning.
Prk.5 - Consider removing the parking requirement for single family homes
Noting that curb-cuts associated with off-street parking take away as many parking spaces as they create, and also create less-than-ideal conditions for pedestrians, this recommendation calls for the city to review the current 1:1 requirement for off-street parking spaces per detached single-family house, and potentially eliminate this requirement.
And there you have it. Probably three or four more parts in this series to go, including Tenant Support, Sustainable Homeownership opportunities, and my personal favorite - On-Street Parking (saved for the very end). Next up I'll go through the "Launch a Proactive Preservation Effort" section, to see what preservation strategies folks who are anti-HALA are opposing.