Seattle City Council approves University District up-zone – potential for 5,000 market rate units

The Seattle City Council took an important step to provide more housing options in the City’s university district. The Council passed a planned up-zone that is consistent with goals set out in the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda – HALA.

The rezone will direct growth to the blocks near the next Sound Transit station (opening in 2021) and the UW campus. Heights for some residential projects may exceed 320’ at the core and transition down to 30’ in residential zones. Five thousand new market rate units are anticipated in addition to approximately 600-900 subsidized units.

SKCR participated in the public hearing and encouraged the council to adopt the up-zone package as a critical measure to address the housing supply crisis and as a prudent complement to the region’s tremendous investment in light rail. The University District has suffered for many years with struggling retail, crime and declining housing quality.

Additional features of the up-zone include new planned open spaces, preservation of historic buildings,  and building design standards to promote an attractive and welcoming streetscape.

“This is a good first step in achieving the HALA goal of 50,000 new units for the city,” said SKCR President Sam DeBord. “The council must continue to act so we can meet the current and future housing needs of our area.”


The up-zone proposal was not without controversy. Some council members attempted to change the terms of the up-zones to increase the fees or the number of units set aside for affordable housing.  Realtors and other real estate industry partners have expressed concern that changes to what was agreed to in the HALA “Grand Bargain” last year will chill housing unit production. Additional fee increases will further threaten the ability to meet housing goals.