Affordable Housing Design Review Amendments - What & Why

Two examples of housing projects.

What’s Happening Now?

As the population of people experiencing homelessness and challenged by the supply and cost of housing in Seattle has increased, so have shelters, encampments and tents. The supply of housing has not kept pace with Seattle’s growing demand and cost pressures. In light of the continuing homelessness and affordable housing crisis, the City needs to develop legislation to help with solutions to Seattle’s housing needs.

SDCI is proposing temporary legislation, that would be in effect for a period of one year, to benefit development projects that include housing by:

  • Exempting housing projects from Design Review if they include affordable housing that meets the Mandatory Housing Affordability* requirements with at least one qualifying housing unit
  • Allowing any housing project required to go through Full Design Review to opt into Administrative Design Review

SDCI would study the results from this legislation to inform a proposal for permanent code changes.

We published a SEPA Determination of Non-Significance on February xx, 2023. See the LUIB notice for more information.

To read the draft legislation, see our Project Documents page.  

*Mandatory Housing Affordability ensures that new commercial and multifamily residential development contributes to affordable housing. This is done by requiring new developments to include affordable housing (performance option) or contribute to the Seattle Office of Housing fund to support the development of affordable housing (payment option).

Project Benefits

This legislation would:

  1. Provide an exemption from Design Review for development projects that elect to meet the City’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirement with on-site performance 
  2. Provide an option for any housing development proposal to be reviewed under Administrative Design Review rather than by the Design Review Board under Full Design Review
  3. Allow the SDCI Director to waive or modify certain development standards for the MHA performance projects
  4. Allow applicants who opt for the Administrative Design Review process to return to Full Design Review process at their discretion
  5. Be effective for an interim period of twelve months while the City studies permanent proposals to update the Design Review process

The End Result

Adopting this legislation will allow more efficient permit review of development to address urgent housing needs, including for low-income people, for a period of one-year while the City studies a permanent proposal to be considered by the City Council. The proposed legislation continues the City’s ongoing efforts to help produce housing by exempting certain projects from Design Review and allowing, at the applicant’s option, different review processes. 

Construction and Inspections

Nathan Torgelson, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
Phone: (206) 684-8600
Phone Alt: Violation Complaint Line: (206) 615-0808
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SDCI issues land use, construction, and trade permits, conducts construction and housing-related inspections, ensures compliance with our codes, and regulates rental rules. SDCI is committed to an antiracist workplace and to addressing racism through our work in the community.