On Monday March 18, 2019, the Seattle City Council held its final vote on a city planning ordinance they call the MHA, Mandatory Affordable Housing requirements. The city council's Monday final vote on this ordinance is both years in the making, and a response to similar ordinances that the Seattle City Council enacted beginning as many as twenty-five (25) years ago.
The Seattle City Council's MHA, Mandatory Affordable Housing, ordinance is extremely complex. Seattle's MHA will govern numerous aspects of the way in which real estate must be developed in some areas of Seattle. One of the MHA ordinance's key provisions is that real estate development builders must either provide a certain percentage of their housing units as "affordable units", or they must pay a "fee in lieu" to the City of Seattle. Over the course of the past twenty or more years, nearly all corporate for profit real estate developers have paid the fees to the City of Seattle rather than build the required affordable units. The so called affordable housing units that have been built in Seattle over the past twenty years have nearly universally been constructed by non-profit organizations that operate by obtaining federal HUD grants that essentially redistribute federal taxpayer dollars to subsidize both the cost of the construction of such residential buildings, and the ongoing cost of providing such housing units at "below market" rates to renters.
The Seattle City Council chamber was packed to capacity on Monday March 18, 2019. Some of the people in attendance supported the Seattle Mandatory Affordable Housing ordinance and some people in attendance were opposed to it. Both opposition to and support of the Seattle Mandatory Affordable Housing ordinance was expressed quite passionately by the many people present in the City Council chamber who testified on March 18, 2019. However, many Seattle residents who commented before and after the meeting, said they realized that the city council's members had already made their decisions and that the result was likely a foregoing conclusion. In fact, the result was that the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to support the Seattle Mandatory Housing Affordability ordinance, including the council's self described socialist member Kshama Sawant.
Very little of the hearing addressed the fact that Seattle has been in a "Yukon Gold Rush" like status over the past thirty years as Microsoft has grown from a company with less than 5,000 local employees in 1990 to over 100,000 Puget Sound region employees, or the advent of internet retailing giant amazon, which is headquartered in the heart of downtown Seattle.