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New: What to Know About Seattle’s New Upzones

Posted on Apr 1, 2019


The Seattle area has experienced record growth lately. Given that this area provides such a rich quality of life, this growth is not surprising at all. However, Seattle has also grown quite crowded; in 2017, about 92 percent of Seattle home sales involved multiple bidders.

This hot real estate market cooled and stabilized in 2018, with just 21 percent of Seattle home sales involving multiple bidders. This cooling means that it buying a home in Seattle should be significantly easier this spring than in past seasons.

Additionally, just last week Seattle passed new upzoning laws, which allow the city to increase housing affordability. While Seattleites remain divided regarding whether or not these upzones will actually create positive growth, many people can agree that they’re at least a start. Here’s what you need to know about Seattle’s new plans for upzones.

Also, as always, reach out to Pickett Street (info@pickettstreet.com or 425-502-5397) if you still have unanswered questions about real estate in the Puget Sound area.

1. Denser construction

These new zoning laws will allow developers to build more in 27 neighborhoods around the city, including Ballard, University, Green Lake, Wallingford, Capital Hill, and Rainier Beach. The city council hopes that the plan will soften the rapid population growth and the city’s growing wealth disparities.

In order to build more housing, developers must devote 5 to 11 percent of each project to low-income housing, or pay $5 to $32.75 per square foot.

2. More housing in single-family areas

The upzones will also permit more housing options in neighborhoods previously restricted to single-family homes. According to the Seattle Times, Councilmember Rob Johnson said, “Planning for growth means sharing space to make room for everyone who wants to find their place in Seattle.” Councilmember M. Lorena González added that some of these previous zoning laws were rooted in the intention to exclude certain minorities from specific neighborhoods in Seattle.

3. More space for marginalized communities, green spaces, and historical buildings

In addition to the new upzone legislation, the city council also passed a resolution to protect specific areas often ignored or pushed out. This resolution will implement anti-displacement strategies to create housing equality. It will also monitor housing and economic activity over time, protect certain trees around the city, and analyze the city’s historical buildings.

4. The debate

Some Seattleites are suspicious that this plan will actually improve housing affordability and create more space for lower-income communities. Many argue that the city needs rent control.

This conversation, however, is not unique to Seattle. As journalist Jon Talton points out, every state in the US lacks adequate housing for the lowest-income communities.

On the other side of the debate, Seattle officials predict that this plan will create up to 3,000 low-income apartments over the next ten years. Even those who don’t completely agree with the 2019 zoning changes believe that they are a step in the right direction.

What do you think about Seattle’s new upzones? Let Pickett Street know your thoughts and questions about the Puget Sound area real estate market at info@pickettstreet.com or 425-502-5397. The future of affordable housing in Seattle is a conversation in which everyone who lives in the area should take part.

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