Brian Lloyd, Development Director at Beacon, recently participated in a Housing & Transit panel discussion sponsored by the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County. Moderated by Bill Rumpf of Mercy Housing NW, other panelists included Claudia Balducci, Mayor of Bellevue, Rep. Jessyn Farrell, State Representative 46th District, and Tony To of HomeSight.
Beacon is currently working on several Seattle Transit Oriented Development (TOD) projects: El Centro de la Raza’s Plaza Roberto Maestas in Beacon Hill, Mt. Baker Housing’s redevelopment of Mt. Baker Village in the Mt. Baker Station Area, and the construction of affordable housing in the Northgate neighborhood. Each project and neighborhood is different, but common themes exist across all affordable TOD work in Seattle.
With Sound Transit 3 on the horizon and the State Legislature recently enacting policy opportunities and tools for advancing affordable housing near transit, this is a very exciting moment in the region’s history. Therefore the key thread of the panel was recognizing and overcoming barriers by enacting tools locally to create affordable housing around transit centers. Panelists touched on the following topics.
- The Impact on Place and Community Engagement: TOD can have a significant impact on place, and therefore requires an early and long-term investment in community engagement and planning. Neighborhood plans, equity and a mix of uses all need to be respected and embraced.
- Request for Proposals (RFPs): Panelists were concerned with how RFP processes in station areas are created. Involving communities early is essential to ensure their desires are reflected in the documents, but this must also be balanced with allowing flexibility for developers to creatively achieve goals and outcomes.
- Transit Corridors: What is our definition of TOD? Due to escalating land prices directly around Light Rail Stations, developers must also look at the corridors that feed high capacity transit, such as frequent bus routes. PSRC’s Growing Transit Communities Partnership offers strategies for communities to use in planning along transit corridors.
- Surplus Properties: Having a plan in place for using surplus properties for affordable housing is essential in this conversation, and new tools will make it easier to access land near transit stations. As part of Sound Transit 3, the legislature required Sound Transit to implement a regional equitable TOD strategy, including offering 80% of surplus property for the purpose of developing affordable housing (either for sale, for long-term lease, or at no cost) .
- Land Acquisition: Land for TOD can be expensive. The Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) Fund is one source for nonprofits to finance land acquisition in TOD areas. However, questions remain related to coordination between land acquisition funding and permanent funding.
- “Right-Sizing”: Right-sizing parking and commercial uses in TOD is an essential part of the development process and every neighborhood is different. There has recently been a lot of support for early studies of these issues in non-profit projects around the City of Seattle.
Both policymakers and developers stressed that a deeper level of conversation around these issues must take place for TOD barriers to be effectively overcome. Policymakers urged developers and advocates to develop as much consensus as possible in order to leverage policy making opportunities. The developers on the panel stressed that early involvement is key to success of TOD as well as flexibility around the deployment of funds, both in terms of incomes served and uses allowed in developments (i.e. the mix of housing, commercial and community space).