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

President’s emergency declaration sparks immediate legal backlash

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his team will sue the White House if federal funds originally intended for Washington state are interrupted.

Bill targets sexual health curriculum in Washington schools

Senate Bill 5395 is co-sponsored by 17 Democratic representatives and introduced by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline.
Study shows King County’s treatment funding is making progress

A document on the county’s .1 percent health sales tax was accepted Wednesday by the county council.

Children’s play area at Seadrunar. Photo by Lauren Davis via Facebook
Seedy side of Seadrunar: Drug rehab center accused of neglect, exploitation

Public records reveal that Seattle facility was accused of neglecting children and clients in its care.

Representative Suzane DelBene and Redmond resident, Yasmin Ali attended the State of the Union last week. Photo courtesy of Suzane DelBene Twitter.
Redmond’s Ali attends State of the Union with Rep. DelBene

DelBene invited Ali as her State of the Union guest.

New Friends of Youth CEO, Paul Lwali, will replace Terry Pottmeyer. Courtesy photo.
Friends of Youth hires new CEO

Pottmeyer steps down; Lwali becomes new Friends of Youth CEO.

Russell Wilson and Ciara spoke Friday at the Tukwila Library to Foster students and other attendees as their Why Not You Foundation joined forces with the King County Library System and JPMorgan Chase to launch the DREAM BIG: Anything is Possible campaign. Photo by Kayse Angel
Russell Wilson and Ciara launch DREAM BIG campaign

Partnership with King County libraries dovetails with scholarship program for local students.

Somali community faces SeaTac displacement

Proposed redevelopment threatens the heart of the Somali business community.

Most Read