Transit-oriented development near the Othello Station in Southeast Seattle. Photo by SounderBruce/Wikipedia Commons

Transit-oriented development near the Othello Station in Southeast Seattle. Photo by SounderBruce/Wikipedia Commons

Sound Transit plans to facilitate affordable housing near light rail stations

The agency is setting aside land in hopes of making transit more equitable.

Sound Transit will now give almost all of its surplus property surrounding Link Light Rail stations to affordable housing developers.

On April 26, the agency’s board of directors approved a new policy which requires Sound Transit to offer up 80 percent of any surplus property surrounding Link Light Rail stations for affordable housing projects. The measure also mandates that developers utilizing surplus property around light rail stations set aside 80 percent of their residential units for tenants earning 80 percent of the area median income or below.

“Two of the biggest problems facing residents of the Puget Sound region are traffic congestion and the lack of affordable housing,” Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dave Somers wrote in a press release. “With this new equitable transit oriented development policy, we will be able to make progress on both of these challenges.”

Sound Transit has long embraced the concept of transit-oriented development, stating in a 2014 report that it was essential to create “compact, walkable, urban centers linked by fast and frequent high capacity transit service.” Prior to the rollout of this policy, affordable housing projects were built near existing light rail stations in Federal Way and South Seattle, while construction is slated to soon begin on an affordable housing project on top of Seattle’s Capitol Hill station. Plans are also in the works to build affordable housing at the Roosevelt Station.

But the new policy changes codifies affordability into the agency’s internal transit-oriented development policies. In 2015, the state Legislature passed a law requiring Sound Transit to prioritize affordable housing development on station surplus property. Over the past year, Sound Transit has worked with stakeholders to develop the new policy.

Puget Sound Sage (a Seattle-based progressive think tank), along with a coalition of affordable housing advocates and minority community organizations, had lobbied the agency for the policy changes in advance of the April 26 vote.

In a March 6 letter to Sound Transit officials, Puget Sound Sage staff argued that the agency should set the affordability requirements for station surplus property to target extremely low-income tenants (i.e. those earning 30 percent of the area median income annually). The letter also called for mandating family-sized housing developments, as opposed to studios and one-bedrooms.

Organizers are pleased with the final policy that Sound Transit landed on. “It was 100 percent a win in our eyes,” said Puget Sound Sage organizer Jessica Ramirez.

Marty Kooistra, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium—one of the advocacy groups that worked with Sound Transit on the policy—is similarly pleased. “We are impressed with the effort that the Sound Transit staff has been putting forth to get a clear policy in place.”

“If you look at the dynamics of the metropolitan region that we have become, transit-oriented development is one of the most critical opportunities that we have to allow people of all means to be able to thrive,” Kooistra added. “Transportation costs and transportation burden on top of housing cost burden can make it very very difficult for lower income people to be able to thrive in the community.”

jkelety@seattleweekly.com

More in News

Vader served the Redmond Police Department for more than seven years and enjoyed a four-year retirement as the Hovenden family pet. Photos courtesy of RPD
Former Redmond police K-9 Vader, dies at 13

Vader served the department for more than 7 years and spent his retirement as a full-time family pet.

Sarah Yount, former YES client, speaks at YES’s 50th anniversary celebration on Nov. 2. Madison Miller/staff photo.
Youth Eastside Services celebrates 50 years

YES celebrates 50 years of providing youth and family behavioral health services.

Sky Metalwala has been missing for seven years. Photo courtesy of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Police plead for help in search for missing boy

Sky has been missing since Nov. 6, 2011 and turned 9 years old on Sept. 2.

Suspect arrested after stealing paychecks | Police blotter

The Redmond police blotter from Oct. 22 through 24. Courtesy of the RPD blog.

Kuderer leads Tom; Walen over Bright

Legislative District 48 race. Results are preliminary.

Democrats lead in 45th Legislative District

Dhingra, Goodman and Springer earned about two thirds of the vote.

DelBene leads in 1st Congressional District in early returns

As of election night, incumbent Suzan DelBene was leading with 69 percent of the vote, to Jeffrey Beeler’s 31 percent.

Marcus Naylor and Joshua Schaer.
                                Marcus Naylor and Joshua Schaer.
Naylor leads Eastside judicial race

Results are preliminary.

King County property assessments have begun for some Eastside neighborhoods

County property appraisers visit around one-sixth of all properties in the county each year to ensure the homes are valued correctly.

From left: Samantha Areliz (VALA curator), Marisa Mouton Provo (VALA Communication Director) and Zachary Burns (artist) look upon the Gatesville exhibit at the new VALA Eastside in Kirkland. Madison Miller/staff photo.
VALA Arts moves to Kirkland; changes name to VALA Eastside

VALA Eastside makes Kirkland its permanent home.

Upcoming shelter for women and families offers hope to Eastside

The city of Kirkland anticipates the shelter for families and women to be completed in 2020.

PSE natural gas bills will be lower this winter

This is the lowest rates the utility has provided since 2004.