Seattle City Council passes historic affordable housing mandate

SEATTLE -- Seattle has taken a big step toward increasing affordable housing.

The full Seattle City Council voted to approve the measure Monday.  Approval was expected since a committee vote on Aug. 2 was 5-0, the majority needed for full council passage.

The new ordinance, for the first time, will require apartment developers to include affordable housing in their buildings.

Seattle continues to rank near the top of cities with the highest increase in rents in the past few years, which has increased the pressure on the city to do something.

The plan includes a strict new rule called “mandatory zoning.”

Councilman Rob Johnson said it will create workforce housing, which is meant for those who have jobs but who are having a tough time making ends meet.

“It’s folks who are making just a little bit above minimum wage,” he said.  “A lot of those folks are being priced out of the city.”

Here are the main elements of the mandatory zoning plan:

    Developers have the option of paying a fee instead of actually building the units.  In that case, the money will be given to a nonprofit housing provider that will create a similar number of units nearby.

    Housing developers, who generally don’t like new mandates, have largely supported the measure.  In return for requiring new affordable units, the city will be up-zoning several high-growth areas around town that will give developers an extra floor or two beyond what is currently allowed.