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Low-Income Housing/Affordable Units Land Use Code Omnibus Amendments

Update: On July 5, Seattle City Council unanimously approved Council Bill 120581.

In One Seattle, every person deserves to have a safe and affordable place to call home – this is critical to our efforts to create a safe, welcoming, and thriving Seattle of the future. Now more than ever, we must advance bold action to address the housing affordability and homelessness crises by helping people move indoors with access to services and preventing homelessness in the first place. We accomplish this with a focus on affordability, new housing, and proactive solutions.

Access to affordable housing and homeownership allows Seattle to be a vibrant place, where all are welcome. It builds generational wealth and racial and social equity for those historically marginalized. It creates jobs and ongoing employment opportunities, advances labor equity goals, and generates income for local businesses. And, at its core, it addresses a root cause of homelessness – providing long-term improvements necessary for sustainable progress on the crisis playing out on our streets.

We’ve seen the need to invest in and build affordable housing options faster and more efficiently. Affordable housing is a priority for the City of Seattle because we understand housing is the foundation for individual and community health, safety, and economic stability. Solving the housing affordability issues in our city requires a multi-pronged effort, a diverse array of solutions that match the scale of the challenge in front of us.

This legislation developed by the Office of Housing, with coordination and support from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI), is an important step to making permitting of low-income housing as predictable and efficient as possible. It is referred to as an “omnibus” bill, meaning it clarifies regulations to be consistent with the City Council’s original intent, provides consistency and predictability for permit applicants, repeals obsolete terms and provisions no longer relevant to permit review, corrects inadvertent clerical errors and incorrect cross-references, and clarifies existing Code language. In addition, certain amendments will help streamline permitting by ensuring the design review exemption and flexibility in the application of certain development standards applies to all rather than just a share of publicly funded housing for low-income individuals and families.

Project Documents

Project Benefits

This legislation would:

  1. Delete obsolete and redundant code phrasing and definitions related to affordable housing and eligible residents;
  2. Update the definition of “low-income housing,” add new unit-specific definitions for “low-income unit,” “moderate-income unit,” and “restricted unit;”
  3. Simplify and increase consistency of housing affordability provisions by using those defined terms, as applicable, throughout Title 23;
  4. Expand design review exemption and authorization to request waiver or modification of certain development standards currently allowed for “permanent supportive housing” to include all “low-income housing,”
  5. Increase consistency of standard provisions for low-income housing and other developments with units subject to housing affordability restrictions;
  6. Consolidate all affordable housing-related provisions of incentive zoning in downtown zones in SMC Chapter 23.58A; and
  7. Simplify and improve clarity of code provisions related to restricted units, which are residential units subject to restrictive housing covenants recorded on the property title, including those in otherwise market-rate buildings.

The End Result

The proposed legislation provides a comprehensive update of Title 23 provisions related to low-income housing or market-rate developments with a small share of affordability-restricted units. Adopting this legislation will allow more efficient permit review of affordable housing development to address urgent housing needs.


For any questions, please contact:

Laura Hewitt Walker
Seattle Office of Housing
Phone: (206) 677-0455