Seattle Releases Draft Rezone Maps and Mandatory Affordability Performance / Fee Schedule

The City of Seattle is moving forward with fairly sizeble rezones in its urban centers and urban villages. The City plans to direct approximately 80 percent of the City’s growth into these areas, which includes Capitol Hill, First Hill, Eastlake, Ballard, Columbia City, Fremont, Wallingford, Upper Queen Anne, and Northgate. In exchange for the rezones, the City will require developers to provide on-site affordable housing or pay funds for affordable housing to the City. This rezone/affordable housing value exchange is commonly known as the “Grand Bargain” and the housing provision is commonly known as Mandatory Housing Affordability (“MHA”). This e-alert outlines the proposed rezones and MHA requirements for areas outside of Downtown and South Lake Union; a future e-alert will discuss the City’s efforts inside Downtown South Lake Union. Because this information is not easily accessible in the City’s online materials, if you have questions, please contact Jeremy Eckert.

The City’s draft plan for the rezones and MHA has two steps:

1.         The City will rezone property located in the City’s urban centers and urban villages. The City is currently preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement that includes most of the proposed rezones. The City is targeting to adopt the rezones in September 2017 after environmental review is complete. Other ongoing rezone efforts, such as the University District rezone, are scheduled to occur before this date.

    • Click here to download detailed draft zoning maps for Urban Villages and Urban Centers: (300 mb file, including 26 maps)

2.         After the rezones occur, all redevelopment in the rezoned areas will be required to either provide on-site affordable housing or pay an affordable housing fee to the City.

The City is proposing zoning changes to areas in green.

Under the draft plan, areas receiving the largest increase in development capacity are required to provide the City with a payment of $32.75 per square foot, or set aside for affordable housing 11 percent of the total units. The affordable rental units must be no more than 60 percent of the area median income (“AMI”) for units greater than 600 square feet, or no more than 40 percent AMI for units 400 square feet or less. These units may not be used to satisfy the City’s multi-family tax exemption program requirements.

As of October 17, 2016, the City’s draft plan included the following performance/payment schedules:

Proposed Requirements for Residential and High-rise Commercial

  Low Area Medium Area High Area
% $ % $ % $
Scale of upzone M suffix 5% $7.00 6% $13.25 7% $20.75
M1 suffix 8% $11.25 9% $20.00 10% $29.75
M2 suffix 9% $12.50 10% $22.25 11% $32.75

Proposed Requirements for non-high-rise Commercial (up to 95 feet)

  Low Cost Medium Cost High Cost
% $ % $ % $
Scale of upzone M suffix 5% $5.00 5% $7.00 5% $8.00
M1 suffix 8% $8.00 8% $11.25 8% $12.75
M2 suffix 9% $9.00 9% $12.50 9% $14.50

The City intends to add these tables into the adopted MHA framework set forth in the Seattle Municipal Code.

As shown in the charts above, the affordable housing performance or payment requirements vary based upon three factors:

1.         Whether the development is residential or commercial.

2.         The increase in development capacity through the rezone. The City’s rezone maps (available here) identify the increase in development capacity with a suffix attached to each rezoned area: M, M1, and M2.

3.         The location of the development. The City has designated certain areas as low, medium, and high, as shown on the Cost Map below.

Cost Map: Identifying Low, Medium, and High Cost Areas

Pink: High Cost
Teal: Medium Cost
Yellow: Low Cost

All information above is draft and therefore subject to change. For example, the City has already modified the “Cost Map” shown above. Initially High Cost Areas included only areas with robust real estate markets, such as Uptown (lower Queen Anne) and Capitol Hill. The City recently amended High Cost Areas to include the International District and the Central District to “reflect the City’s analysis of higher displacement risk.” As a result, development in areas with relatively robust real estate markets (e.g. Ballard and Fremont) are in a lower Cost Area than the International District and the Central District. Thus, it is unclear what metric the City is using to draw lines on its Cost Map. It is likely that there will be additional changes to this material as the City reviews data and hears from stakeholders.

Please contact Jeremy Eckert at or 206.447.6284 if you have questions regarding the City’s proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability requirements. Jeremy is a partner in Foster Pepper’s Land Use group who helps private developers navigate the City of Seattle’s complex entitlement process.