Threatening to render Thursday’s public hearing on Seattle microhousing fully anticlimactic, the chair of the City Council’s land use committee says that one rule change that closes a tax benefit loophole for developers will likely be followed by new legislation from DPD to further constrict the flow of multi-story, dorm-style apartments in the city.
“One sore spot has been the way that developers have used their ‘unit count’ in different ways depending on what City regulation they are working with,” Richard Conlin writes in a post to his “Making it Work” blog in advance of Thursday’s hearing. “The City Office of Housing has now issued a regulation that should resolve this issue.”
The new regulation requires that any building applying for a Multi-Family Tax Exemption for affordable housing use the same unit count that the developer uses in the land use permitting process, Conlin said.
WHEN: April 18, 2013 – 11:30 am @ 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
WHERE: Council Chambers, second floor, 600 4th Avenue
CHS reported in March on the push for a moratorium on microhousing development even as City staff were working to close the loopholes that allowed developers to play games with the number of units in a project to gain tax breaks and avoid environmental and design reviews. CHS mapped nearly 40 of the projects across the city with the bulk being built on Capitol Hill and in the University District, though several are underway or complete in the Central District. Given soaring rents and forecasts for a continuing influx of new Seattleites, it’s little wonder the Apodment-style developments are popular with investors — and tenants.
But while Thursday’s forum will likely bring more calls for a moratorium on the projects, the complaints very well could be moot. Conlin writes that the Department of Planning and Development is preparing legislation that City Council will need to carry forward and pass to further address the microhousing loopholes:
DPD is working on legislation that will address two other issues to cover micro-unit buildings in the land use code. This legislation will define micro-unit buildings, to establish that they are different from an apartment building and have different characteristics. DPD is also considering creating a new threshold for design review based on the size/square footage of the building, rather than the unit count, so that micro-unit buildings will be treated the same as an apartment building of the same square footage.
The rules forcing design review would seemingly take much of the wind from the sails of critics who have complained that the projects are not subject to the same controls as other projects.
Still, Conlin seems to be forecasting continued opposition on Thursday. “[S]ome of the opposition to these buildings is based on other, less tangible, factors related to this kind of affordable housing,” he writes, “even though these buildings meet the other requirements of the land use code.”