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Federal Judge Dismisses Seattle Homeowners’ Lawsuit Against Housing Affordability Policy

Federal Judge Dismisses Seattle Homeowners’ Lawsuit Against Housing Affordability Policy

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Seattle homeowner against the city, challenging its Mandatory Housing Affordability policy.

Anita and Vance Adams, a couple residing in Central District, filed a lawsuit in 2022, alleging that the city’s policy implemented in 2016, which aimed to encourage affordable housing among major developers, violated their constitutional rights by unjustly seizing their private property without compensation.

Judge Thomas Zilly, in his ruling, stated that the city’s policy does not amount to taking. He explained that the requirements only come into play when a property owner intends to build a new structure, and they have the choice to either pay a fee or apply for a waiver.

According to his statement, the city has not imposed any conditions or exactions on the Adamses as they did not apply for a permit or waiver.

The statement from Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison’s office expressed satisfaction with Judge Zilly’s recognition that the lawsuit is not grounded in constitutional law.

The Institute for Justice, a national law firm with libertarian leanings, has announced its intention to appeal the decision on behalf of Anita and Vance Adams.

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Although the program primarily targets larger developers, it is open to anyone constructing new housing that is not a detached accessory dwelling unit, which has a size restriction of 1,000 square feet.

In 2020, the Adamses made the decision to construct an addition to their South Jenkins Street home. This addition would provide a living space for their children and parents, ensuring that everyone could reside on the same property.

A second mortgage was obtained on their existing home to finance a spacious four-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot addition for their adult children and aging parents. Later on, the couple discovered that they were required to pay a staggering $77,000 in fees in order to proceed with their construction plans under the affordability program.

Seattle implemented the Mandatory Housing Affordability program in 2016 and 2017, aiming to boost density and generate funds for affordable housing from developers. In 2019, a total of 27 neighborhoods underwent upzoning, which granted developers the opportunity to construct buildings of greater height or size as reported by the Seattle Times.

As part of the agreement, housing developers in these neighborhoods are obligated to ensure that a portion of their units are affordable for individuals earning 60% of the median income or lower. Alternatively, they can choose to contribute fees towards the development of affordable housing. The median household income in Seattle is approximately $116,000.

Since its establishment, the program has successfully developed 123 homes at affordable prices and generated over $300 million in fees dedicated to supporting affordable housing. Payment decline was observed in 2023 due to a widespread downturn in the construction industry.

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