New Seattle Development Design Review Exemptions

October 18, 2023
A Performance Option Synopsis

The City Council has amended the land use code to make two important changes to the design review program aimed at encouraging additional low-income housing. The first change permanently exempts low-income housing projects from the Design Review program. The second change provides a new Design Review exemption for projects that meet Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements by providing units on site via the Performance Option under the Land Use Code. Projects that opt into the Performance Option can skip MUP and Design Review and proceed directly to Building Permit where land use code compliance will be evaluated concurrently with other review subjects.

 

Expediated Timelines:

 

Bypassing Design Review and MUP milestones could yield significant time and cost saving on project delivery.

 

 

Schedule comparisons showing how fast the entitlements process can be if MHA units are provided instead of the ‘payment in lieu.’

 

Calculating the Number of Affordable Housing Units Required to avoid Design Review:

 

If a project contains commercial space, the area dedicated to affordable units required to satisfy the Performance Option is calculated as a percentage of the overall applicable area in commercial use. If a project contains residential space, the required number of affordable units is calculated as a percentage of the total number of dwelling units in the project. Developments that contain both commercial and residential space will use a combination of both calculation methods.

 

Performance Amount for Commercial Development:

 

The net unit area of affordable housing required to comply with Performance Option is outlined in Tables A&B for SMC 23.58B.050. The required square footage set-aside for affordable units varies respectively by zone, MHA suffix (M/M1/M2), and performance area intensity as noted in Map A for SMC 23.58C.050. For most zones, the area of affordable housing required ranges between 5-9% of the applicable commercial floor area.

 

Performance Amount for Residential Development:

 

The number of affordable housing units required to comply with Performance Option is outlined in Tables A&B for SMC 23.58C.050. The required percentage set-aside similarly varies respectively by zone, MHA suffix (M/M1/M2), and performance area intensity as noted in Map A for SMC 23.58C.050. For most zones, the number of affordable housing units required ranges between 5-11% of the total number of units to be developed in each structure.

 

 

Table from the Seattle municipal code indicating how many units need to be affordable for a project to be exempt from development design review.

 

Performance Standards for Qualifying Affordable Units:

 

Duration: Units provided to comply with the Performance Option must remain affordable for 75 years from the date of certificate of occupancy.

 

Distribution & Comparability: Units provided to satisfy the Performance Option must be generally distributed throughout the structure and be comparable to other units in terms of: Type of dwelling unit such as live-work unit or congregate residence sleeping room; Number and size of bedrooms and bathrooms; Net unit area; Access to amenity areas; Functionality; and Lease term.

 

Eligibility: Household eligibility varies with unit size and rental date.

 

At initial occupancy (lease-up), units with a net area of 400 sf or less are eligible to households with incomes up to 40% of AMI. Units with a net area greater than 400 sf are eligible to households with incomes up to 60% of AMI.

 

Thereafter at annual certification, units with a net area of 400 sf or less are eligible to households with incomes up to 60% of AMI. Units with a net area greater than 400 sf are eligible to households with incomes up to 80% of AMI.

 

Public Subsidy: Affordable housing units provided to satisfy the requirements of the Performance Option may NOT be used to earn public subsidy such as through the Multifamily Housing Property Tax Exemption (MFTE Program).

 

Rent Levels: Monthly rents for units with a net area of 400 sf or less, shall not exceed 30% of 40% of AMI. Monthly rents for units with a net area greater than 400 sf, shall not exceed 30% of 60% of AMI. “Monthly rent” must include a utility allowance for heat, gas, electricity, water, sewer, and refuse collection, as well as any recurring fees that are required as a condition of tenancy.

 

Annual Certification, Third Party Verification: Every year an owner of the rental unit must obtain from each tenant a certification of household size and income. Owners of rental units shall attempt to obtain third party verification whenever possible to substantiate income at each certification, which shall include contacting the individual income source(s) supplied by the household. If written or oral third-party documentation is not available, the owner may accept original documents (pay stubs, W-2, etc.) At the discretion of the Director of Housing, the owner may accept tenant self-certifications after the initial income verification and first annual recertification. The owner shall maintain all certifications and documentation obtained on file for at least six years after they are obtained.

 

Reporting: Once a year the owner of the rental unit shall submit a written report to the Director of Housing, verified upon oath, demonstrating compliance with Chapter 23.58C. The written report shall state: the occupancy and vacancy of each rental unit, the monthly rent charged for the unit, and the income and size of the household occupying the unit. The Director of Housing may require other documentation to ensure compliance including documentation of rents, copies of tenant certifications, documentation supporting determinations of tenant income including employer’s verification or check stubs, and other documentation necessary to track program outcomes and the demographics of households served. The owner of the rental unit shall pay the Office of Housing an annual fee of $150 per rental unit for the purposes of monitoring compliance with the requirements.

 

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile    Michael Lama Headshot

 

By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Managing Design Principal, and Michael Lama, Project Designer

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Discovering a Love for Design
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This is a familiar story for many interior designers. I wanted to be an...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Human Centered Design
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...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Symbiotic Communities
Before the pandemic, it was common for businesses and office workers to have an insulated experience within the...
Before the pandemic, it was common for...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Civic Pride
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...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
What’s Next for the Workplace?
What will it take to revive central business districts across the US? What role will your workplace play in this recovery?  What makes a...
What will it take to revive central business districts across the US?...
HOUSING
SENIOR COMMUNITIES
SUSTAINABILITY & WELLNESS
Looking Ahead
Ankrom Moisan’s Jeremy Southerland, Alissa Brandt, and Chris Ebert led a presentation ...
Ankrom Moisan’s Jeremy Southerland, Alissa...
INTERIOR DESIGN
URBAN LIVING
Multi-Faceted Life
Apartment buildings are micro-neighborhoods, offering residents opportunities to connect to the community around them. And as individual unit...
Apartment buildings are micro-neighborhoods, offering residents...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
SENIOR COMMUNITIES
SUSTAINABILITY & WELLNESS
Fitness is Integral to Wellness
The connections between exercise and overall wellness are well established—but how can we, as designers, create senior communities that...
The connections between exercise and overall wellness are well...
ARCHITECTURE
SENIOR COMMUNITIES
SUSTAINABILITY & WELLNESS
Balancing Elements of Design with Light in Mind
With access to natural daylight, we’re sharper and happier during the day, we sleep better at night, and we recovery faster when we’re sick....
With access to natural daylight, we’re sharper and happier during the...
INTERIOR DESIGN
URBAN LIVING
Adaptive Living
There’s a new focus on the changing needs of residents in an evolving world. Future-ready units with practical and customizable features will...
There’s a new focus on the changing needs of residents in an evolving...
INTERIOR DESIGN
URBAN LIVING
Leading the Evolving Market
As people adapt to the shocks of the pandemic, multi-family communities are responding to the long-term shifts in residents’ daily...
As people adapt to the shocks of the pandemic, multi-family communities...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
INTERIOR DESIGN
SENIOR COMMUNITIES
SUSTAINABILITY & WELLNESS
Vitality in the Village
Understanding the connection between a well-designed community and people’s overall resilience and health, our campus master plan for Mary’s...
Understanding the connection between a well-designed community and...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
SENIOR COMMUNITIES
SUSTAINABILITY & WELLNESS
Approaching Air Quality Holistically
Fresh air and wellness are intrinsically connected. With ready access to fresh air, people are more alert, physically healthier, able to heal...
Fresh air and wellness are intrinsically connected. With ready access...
INTERIOR DESIGN
URBAN LIVING
[Home]Work
With the rapid acceptance of remote work, we are examining how residents’ needs are changing in multifamily communities. Building amenities...
With the rapid acceptance of remote work, we are examining how...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Re-Connect
What is the purpose of the office now? And in the future? To answer these questions, we surveyed nearly 400 people from various industries and...
What is the purpose of the office now? And in the future? To answer...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
The New Suburban Office
Natural ventilation and access to fresh air are priorities for post-pandemic office spaces. With people’s growing interest in shorter commutes,...
Natural ventilation and access to fresh air are priorities for...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Evolution of Office Amenities Q&A
COVID-19’s influence on the future of office space is one of the real estate industry’s million-dollar questions today. With many employees...
COVID-19’s influence on the future of office space is one of the real...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
Feasibility Studies
We conduct site feasibility studies for our clients, which are divided into three tiers. From Tier 1 to Tier 3, each tier deals with increasing...
We conduct site feasibility studies for our clients, which are divided...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
SENIOR COMMUNITIES
SUSTAINABILITY & WELLNESS
Accommodation Around Dining
Sharing meals is essential to people’s social and emotional wellness. Our insights support safer communal meals in senior living campuses that...
Sharing meals is essential to people’s social and emotional wellness....
CULTURE
AM Design Week 2020
For Seattle Design Festival’s 10th anniversary in August, 2020, our Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco offices celebrated Design Week...
For Seattle Design Festival’s 10th anniversary in August, 2020, our...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Re-New
Our wellness solutions are realistic and evidence-based. By investigating how the coronavirus affects workplace design, setting clear outcomes,...
Our wellness solutions are realistic and evidence-based. By...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
Apartment Innovation Insights
After interviewing hundreds of apartment residents, we distilled their responses and refined our observations into practical design...
After interviewing hundreds of apartment residents, we distilled their...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Re-Entry
Ankrom Moisan has spent decades designing healthy, empowering workplaces. Working quickly and cost-effectively, we design and implement strategies...
Ankrom Moisan has spent decades designing healthy, empowering...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Re-Imagine
Our own reentry strategy for 38 Davis, Ankrom Moisan’s Portland headquarters, puts our design insights into practice. Discover how we...
Our own reentry strategy for 38 Davis, Ankrom Moisan’s Portland...
INTERIOR DESIGN
WORKPLACE
Re-Set
We surveyed 300+ people about returning to the office, and their responses were loud and clear. A holistic, employee-centered approach is...
We surveyed 300+ people about returning to the office, and their...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
High-Rise Design
Download our latest (2020) lookbook on urban high-rise design. – – – – > UPDATE: Click to view the ...
Download our latest (2020) lookbook on urban high-rise design. ...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
Design for Living: Mid-Rise
Download our inspiring 2020 lookbook on mid-rise living.   ...
Download our inspiring 2020 lookbook on mid-rise...
ARCHITECTURE
HOUSING
Apartment Innovation Survey
Our survey, conducted from May 28 through June 17, 2020, yielded over 400 responses and 1,635 written comments about apartment living...
Our survey, conducted from May 28 through June 17, 2020, yielded over...