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HALA Focus Groups Wrap Work and Representative Reports to FNC

Toby Thaler and Peter Hornyack, FNC board members, both attended the final wrap-up meeting for the HALA focus groups this past week, Hornyack reports. He writes, “Now that the process is complete I’ve written an update for the FNC website, containing the most up-to-date information from the city.”  That report follows below. He also says, “I got some information about the amendment that Rob Johnson got added to the MHA framework to attempt to direct MHA fees back to the neighborhoods that generated them. It also sounds like the EIS (scheduled to be completed next month) should contain more detailed information about how much development the city expects to happen in each urban village if the MHA proposals are enacted. …”

HALA update – February 2017

The city has completed its HALA Community Focus Group process and continues to meet with neighbors in urban villages throughout the city to refine its Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) proposals.

What is it? MHA is also known as the “Grand Bargain,” where urban villages throughout the city will be upzoned in exchange for requiring that new housing developments either pay fees into a fund for affordable housing or provide affordable units in the building.

What’s the current timeline? The city will continue gathering public input on the MHA program through June 30 2017; the proposed legislation will then go to the city council at the end of 2017, and the upzones and corresponding MHA requirements would be enacted in 2018.

How much affordable housing will actually be built in our neighborhood? The city’s MHA Production Modeling summary describes how much and where, at a broad level, affordable housing will be produced through MHA:

  • MHA is expected to produce 6,000 affordable housing units over 20 years.
  • The city estimates that 3,180 of those units will be located in urban villages outside of downtown and South Lake Union.
  • Of those units, 900 are expected to be provided inside housing developments along with other market rate units, while 2,280 units are expected to be in new developments containing only affordable housing.

The city has not yet released estimates of the amount of affordable housing that will be produced in individual neighborhoods, but it will likely do so in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that it is preparing, currently scheduled to be released in March 2017. Finally, in August 2016 the city council adopted an amendment to the MHA framework (Seattle Municipal Code 23.58C.040.B.3.e, sponsored by Councilmember Rob Johnson) stating that new affordable housing developments should be located, when possible, near market-rate developments that paid MHA fees (in other words, even though the city will not require affordable units in every new building, new fully-affordable housing developments should be targeted at neighborhoods where new MHA development has already occurred).

Here are some additional links and materials that Fremont residents may find valuable for learning how HALA and MHA will affect our neighborhood:

  • Proposed zoning changes for MHA: Fremont urban village, Wallingford urban village, and all urban villages (large download).
  • MHA Urban Design Analysis: valuable information to help understand the proposed zoning changes, including the proposed building regulations (e.g. height, setbacks) for every zone type and examples of what new housing developments may look like. One proposal of note is a requirement that in lowrise-1 zones at least 12% of new units be 2-bedroom units and at least 6% be 3-bedroom units.
  • Maximum development potential examples: illustrations of the largest building types and shapes that will be allowed in every zone type under the MHA proposals.
  • HALA Community Focus Groups Final Packet: summarizes the results of the HALA focus groups, including the community principles that the city used to guide the MHA proposals and a selection of comments that the city has received on its zoning proposals.
  • Calendar of HALA events: no more events are currently scheduled for the Fremont / Wallingford neighborhoods, but the city will continue to hold public meetings through the end of the year. This page has a form to sign up for e-mail updates about HALA.
  • HALA / MHA Frequently Asked Questions and Glossary of housing terms.

If you have questions or comments about HALA and MHA, please send them to the FNC board via our Contact page or post a comment to our Facebook page.

Hornyack also asked about the location of the affordable housing: “First, many of my neighbors are concerned that new developments in their neighborhood will pay MHA fees into the city’s affordable housing fund, but then the affordable housing will be built elsewhere. To help address this I seem to recall that over the summer a city council member (Johnson?) proposed an amendment directing that affordable housing developments be targeted “proportionally” into neighborhoods where development provided the most MHA fees. Was such an amendment ever proposed or passed, or am I remembering this incorrectly? If the amendment did exist, could you point me to information about it?

Response from Geoff Wentlandt at the City: “Yes, there was an amendment to the MHA framework legislation to include a criteria in how payments from MHA would be distributed, so that there is a priority given to using funds nearby where they are collected.  This is one criteria balanced with others.  It is not possible to exclusively use the MHA funds from one neighborhood in that neighborhood, because it would likely take a long time for enough funds to be collected in the area to fund a whole building.  Nobody wants the funds to sit in the bank.

The language can be seen in the adopted code at SMC 23.58C.040.B, …  https://www.municode.com/library/wa/seattle/codes/municipal_code?nodeId=TIT23LAUSCO_SUBTITLE_IIILAUSRE_CH23.58CMAHOAFREDE_23.58C.040AFHOAYOP

Finally Hornyack asked about: “Second, during the October focus group meeting I wrote down that the city was planning to publish a formal study containing its economic analysis of the MHA program. I also noted that the city was mapping the “development capacity potential” in each neighborhood to estimate where and how soon development will happen and that that information would be shared. Has the city completed and released those studies yet? I did find the economic analysis delivered by CAI in November – is there any other economic study forthcoming?

Wentlandt answered: “At this point no further economic analysis is ongoing, although we will consider additional studies if they are required.  The environmental impact statement will have a detailed analysis for various alternatives that will explore for each neighborhood where development could be expected to occur.  This includes a.) identification of all potentially redevelopment sites over an unlimited time horizon,, as well as b.) an identification of the sites expected to redevelop in the 20 year horizon to achieve the growth estimate.  Other than the 20 year study horizon the analysis  will not address how fast development is expected to occur. We have prepared an interim version of the growth estimates for each urban village as they are adjusted upward due to the draft 1 MHA mapping proposal.  … The methods and amounts will be refined to a higher degree of detail in the EIS analysis and for the eventual preferred alternative.” See these documents MHA-R_amendments.pdf and  Draft MHA Zoning Changes – Residential Growth Estimate v8.pdf

Thanks so much to Peter Hornyack and Toby Thaler for representing FNC and for keeping us well-informed. (Linda Clifton, Site Editor for FNC)

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