Seattle makes affordable housing mandatory in upzoned neighborhoods

Architects and developers building across much of Seattle will soon have to meet the city’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements, a set of rules passed with a spate of recent comprehensive zoning changes designed to ensure that “new commercial and multifamily residential development contributes [new] affordable housing.”

The MHA regulations were approved this spring and are expected to add over 6,000 new low-income housing units to the city’s housing stock over the next decade. The changes are part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Living Agenda, a three-pronged effort undertaken by city agencies several years ago to increase housing supply in order to stem escalating rents and property values across the thriving region. The fiercely contested changes in land use will allow for a greater level of residential density in many of the city’s neighborhoods and will ask builders to either include affordable housing on-site or pay into a general fund that can be used by city agencies to create new affordable housing in other areas.MHA-Maps_Credit_Courtesy-City-of-Seattle-1-645x895

The new regulations span five categories of development density, from low-rise detached and row house neighborhoods to taller mixed-use districts where buildings will be allowed to rise to a height of 95 feet or more. The efforts will upzone roughly 6 percent of the city’s single-family zones. Single-family zones ultimately make up over 80 percent of the city’s residential areas.

MHA regulations, according to planning documents provided by the City of Seattle, will be pegged to the degree of upzoning that takes place: Under the plan, areas that have been upzoned most significantly will be required to add a relatively higher proportion of new affordable housing. The required fees administered in lieu of on-site affordable housing construction will start at $5.58 per square foot for projects located in low-rise areas outside downtown Seattle and will go as high as $35.75 per square foot for larger mixed-use developments, according to city agencies.

~Antonio Pacheco, The Architect’s Newspaper

 

CEOs of Seattle area’s biggest companies: We need more housing for the middle class

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The CEOs of King County’s largest businesses — from Amazon and Boeing to Starbucks and Nordstrom — are pushing for more housing for middle-income workers at a time when professionals like nurses, teachers and cops are increasingly being priced out and new housing is aimed mostly at higher earners.

Challenge Seattle, a group of 17 local CEOs led by former Gov. Christine Gregoire, released a report Wednesday that amounts to a call for action on more housing aimed at households making between $54,000 and $108,000 (or less for individuals). The group also includes the chief executives of Microsoft, Costco, Zillow, Weyerhaeuser, Alaska Airlines, Expedia and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

Except for Microsoft, the companies thus far have not contributed their own financial resources to spur investment in new housing. Instead, they are advocating for things Gregoire concedes should prove challenging to implement, like zoning reform and changes to real-estate investment that could lower profits.

The basic problem is this: Over the past decade, local home prices and rents have soared twice as fast as incomes. The biggest impact has been on low-income residents, but now about 40 percent of middle-income earners spend more on housing than they can afford (defined as more than 30 percent of their income).

Seattle and a couple of suburbs have seen an epic building boom, yet new housing aimed at middle-class workers has been almost nonexistent.

This decade, 85 percent of new county apartments have been luxury units where rents top $2,000 a month — developers do that because it’s the most profitable. On the other end, some nonprofits and public agencies have been building subsidized housing aimed at the lowest wage earners, helped by tax credits and gifts that make those projects work financially.

The report outlines some of the effects: A local utility, apparently Puget Sound Energy, has just three after-hours responders left living in the service area that spans Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland, Mercer Island and Newcastle, slowing response times. Local cops, even the police chief of Bellevue, have had to move to cities outside where they serve. The share of commuters driving at least 90 minutes one-way has grown 70 percent this decade.

“If a community cannot provide housing to those who are the heart and soul of it — those who respond to disasters, provide health care, teach our kids and so on — then what kind of community is that to live in?” Gregoire said in an interview.

The group asks local governments to relax zoning laws to allow for more density, especially near transit. That will be a tough sell in suburbs where housing construction is already weaker than its historical average as residents fed up over issues like traffic and noise fight to protect single-family neighborhoods. However, mayors of nine local suburbs, at the urging of Challenge Seattle and Microsoft, recently signed a letter committing to consider such changes.

The CEOs also ask governments to reduce impact fees that help fund projects to offset some of the issues development exacerbates, like traffic, to reduce construction costs. It wants the state to relax laws that make it easier for condo owners to sue developers in hopes the change would spur more condo construction, an effort already underway in Olympia this session. And it wants tax credits used to finance low-income projects to be extended to projects aimed at middle-income earners.

The group also wants to challenge the real-estate industry to essentially make less money in the short term, which figures to be an even harder sell. For instance, it wants socially conscious banks and investors to make loans for middle-income housing with below-market interest rates; asks equity partners that invest in developments in exchange for a stake in the project to receive their profits in smaller chunks over a longer time frame; and wants lenders to provide short-term loans for land, the riskiest time for investors to give out loans because projects aren’t certain at that stage.

Microsoft, a member of the coalition, made a big splash earlier this month with plans for a $500 million housing fund, including $225 million in loans to help finance middle-income housing at below-market interest rates. But no other member of the group has committed to spending its own money on the problem, even as the housing crisis affects their employees and communities where they are based.

Gregoire said the group will consider in the coming weeks creating a housing lending fund similar to Microsoft’s, with its member companies and perhaps other local businesses and even private citizens eligible to contribute.

“We’re by no means done,” she said.

~Mike Rosenber, Seattle Times

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Seattle homes sold at fastest pace ever in 2017, Zillow says

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Homes in Seattle sold in an average of 47 days in 2017. That’s the fastest it’s ever been, according to a new analysis by Zillow.

It means something recent house hunters already have learned — be ready to move fast when you find the home you want.

“As demand has outpaced supply in the housing market over the past three years, buying a home has become an exercise in speed and agility,” said Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas.

The 47 day average in made Seattle the third-fastest market for selling homes in 2017. Only San Jose, Calif. (41 days) and San Francisco (43 days) were faster.

Zillow said May and June were the fastest-selling months in 2017. Homes stayed on the market for 42 days. That includes closing.

It’s just going to get worse in 2018. Zillow predicts there will be 19.7 percent fewer homes on the market this year.

“This is shaping up to be another competitive home shopping season for buyers, who may have to linger on the market until they find the right home but then sprint across the finish line once they do,” said Terrazas.

Be prepared to pay more than you planned. Zillow says 52.4 percent of homes in 2017 sold for more than the asking price.

Nationwide, it took 81 days for the typical U.S. home to sell in 2017. The slowest market for selling was New York City (134 days).

~Travis Pittman, King 5 News

Half of Seattle homes selling above list price

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More than half the homes sold in Seattle last year–52.4% according to real estate website Zillow–were sold for more than the asking price. That’s an increase from 20.3 percent five years earlier. That’s the largest increase in any market that Zillow tracked.

The median amount paid above the list price was $21,000.

Nationwide, 24.1 percent of homes sold above asking price compared to 17.8 percent in 2012. The median amount paid above list price was $7,000.

Zillow cites strong demand, limited supply, and low-interest rates in the U.S. housing market, with a steady decline in inventory over the past three years.

The average home in Seattle sells in less than 50 days, according to Zillow. That’s faster than the nationwide average of 80 days.

“The typical buyer spends more than four months home shopping and has to make multiple offers before an offer is accepted,” Zillow said in a statement.

San Jose had the highest percentage of buyers who paid above price for homes — 68.5 percent — with the median amount spent at $62,000 over list price. San Francisco was second — 64.5 percent — and with the median amount spent at $41,000 over the list.

“In the booming tech capitals of the California Bay Area and Pacific Northwest, paying above list price is now the norm. In the face of historically tight inventory, buyers have had to be more aggressive in their offers,” Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas said in a statement. He added that he does not see the trend changing in 2018.

 

~Travis Pittman, King 5 News

The Seattle Area Housing Market: Big Demand, Little Supply

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Home buyers in the Seattle area are up against the toughest purchasing prospects in the country.

The Seattle Times cited the monthly Case-Shiller home price index, which showed a 12.3-percent year-over-year increase for single family home prices in the metro area in March. It’s the fastest growth in more than three years and easily outdistances increases in Portland (9.2 percent), Dallas (8.6 percent), Denver (8.4 percent) and Boston (7.7 percent).

Seattle also more than doubles the national average for price gains, which are at 5.8 percent.

Seattle-based real estate company Redfin released its Demand Index on Tuesday, and it shows what buyers are certainly learning the hard way as prime selling season approaches — there just aren’t enough houses available for interested parties.

Seattle is the most inventory-constrained metro, as measured by months of supply, but it also has the third smallest amount of inventory, following Oakland and San Francisco, Redfin said. Seattle posted the largest year-over-year decrease in inventory, down 35 percent from last April. In the same period, the number of Redfin customers making offers climbed by 36.9 percent, an indication that the market is more competitive for buyers this year than it was last year.

“There’s no indication that this market is going to see a drastic increase in supply or a drop in demand, so waiting isn’t an option for a serious buyer,” said Redfin Seattle agent Kyle Moss in the company’s blog post. “People intent on purchasing this season should be discerning and focus on the one or two criteria that are most important to them, like commute time and/or schools. From there, carve out a list of homes that meet your qualifications and work alongside an agent who has experience winning offers in competitive situations to build and execute a competitive strategy that fits your budget.”

That inventory crunch, in a city attracting thousands of new well-paid tech workers to companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Expedia and others, is leading to the highest rate of bidding wars among the cities that Redfin tracks in other hot markers. In Seattle in April, 88.7 percent of homes received multiple offers, outpacing Los Angeles (79.3 percent), Oakland (78.6 percent), San Diego (77.5 percent) and Washington, D.C. (73.9 percent) among others.

The Times said extra offers often drive prices higher, and the typical single-family house in the city last month sold for a record $722,000.

~Kurt Schlosser, Geekwire

Housing Forecast – 2017

It sounds like the Seattle Tacoma Bellevue market will be the fourth hottest in the nation in 2017 according to Veros Real Estate Solutions!new-image

According to Veros Real Estate Solutions, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue market is projected to be the fourth hottest real estate market in the U.S. in 2017. The company projects home prices to appreciate 10.2 percent in our region next year, far outpacing the rest of the country.

If you’re thinking about selling, the timing couldn’t be better. With inventory at historic lows, prices at or near record highs, and multiple offers the norm, it’s an exceptional time to get top dollar for your home.

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