Building More Affordable Housing Using Surplus Public Land

The Problem

Often surplus city property is sold to the highest bidder, permanently removing public land from public ownership and shrinking available spaces for affordable housing. And in the midst of an affordability crisis, Seattle needs to use every available tool at its disposal to create affordable housing.

Seattle's Opportunity

Rep. Cindy Ryu, a legislator from Shoreline, shepherded a bill (SHB 2382) through the legislature in 2018, granting authority to cities to sell surplus property for below fair-market value – all the way to $0 – as long as the land is used for permanently affordable housing.

This means Seattle could repurpose surplus property for community-driven development of affordable housing. And it would create opportunities to develop site control - where to place housing - for more community-driven affordable housing development.


Discounted Affordable Housing (~15% Cheaper)

Land alone can add 15% to the cost of developing permanently affordable housing. By reducing or eliminating this cost, more homes can be built either on-site or throughout the city. This also means your taxpayer dollars can be stretched further for production of permanently affordable homes for working families, retirees, students, artists, small business owners and others.

Community-Driven Development

In addition, this will give the city an opportunity to evaluate underutilized properties and find mixed-use construction to expand affordable housing throughout Seattle. Mixed-use can include homes situated above child care facilities, libraries, small and micro businesses, community meeting spaces, and so much more!

What' Next?

The timeline below is subject to change:

City Light Policies
In July 2018 the first set of policies addressed City Light specifically. These are distinct from other parcels, and set the stage for the broader policies for the rest of the City!
Finance & Administrative Services Policies
Covering all other parcels, these policy changes will be considered in the Finance & Neighborhoods Committee in September, prioritizing housing for disposition for the next five years and explicity setting rules to give notice to community groups.
The Enterprise Map
Coming fall 2018, a map will be available that highlights available surplus and underutilized properties for all local governments and nonprofit organizations (including churches) for everyone to review. It will be an important tool to identify opportunities and maximize production of affordable homes!
Engage Other Governments
SHB 2382 allowed all local governments to adopt similar policies. This fall and winter, Councilmember Mosqueda's office will be working with their colleagues at the County, the Port and neighboring jurisdictions to set similar rules, ensuring we are taking a regional approach to producing affordable housing.

Examples of Mixed-Use Housing

Mixed use housing can combine housing with commercial space on the ground floor as well as public amenitites like open space and childcare.

Plaza Roberto Maestas

Filipino Community Center


View an infographic about this topic:

Infographic (1 of 2) - Building More Affordable Housing Using Surplus Public Land

Infographic (2 of 2) - Building More Affordable Housing Using Surplus Public Land


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