Affordable Housing Incentive Programs Overview
The King County Housing and Community Development Program (HCD) administers a number of affordable housing incentive programs that are provided in the King County Code, and coordinates with other King County departments on a number of programs in order to facilitate the creation of housing at a range of affordable levels.
Credit Enhancement Program
The King County Credit Enhancement Program is an initiative to assist in the development of affordable housing. On select projects that meet King County priorities, King County will provide a credit enhancement which reduces the financing costs for housing developments - both market rate or affordable housing developments. In exchange for project savings, the developer agrees to set aside affordable units within the project.
To learn more, download a Credit Enhancement Program Brochure (pdf), or contact Vince Tom by e-mail or by phone at (206) 263-9079.
Surplus Property Program for Affordable Housing
On July 22, 1996, the Metropolitan King County Council unanimously passed an ordinance that provides that if a parcel of property is surplus to the needs of King County, and is suitable for housing, then it should be sold or leased for the purpose of affordable housing.
In accordance with this Ordinance, each year, by September 30th, the Property Services Division of King County issues a list of properties that are surplus to the needs of King County which are suitable for housing. Over the course of the following year the Property Services Division, in conjunction with the Housing and Community Development Program, will request affordable housing proposals from both for-profit and non-profit developers. These requests will be advertised on King County's web page and in local newspapers.
Please visit the King County Real Estate Services Division web site for any current RFPs for surplus property, or contact Bob Thompson Real Estate Services Division, by e-mail or by phone at (206) 296-7494.
Other Affordable Housing Incentive Programs
NEW: Application Form
Click here for the fillable application form for the Road Mitigation Payment System (MPS) fee waiver, the school fee waiver, or to apply for a density bonus or waiver of parking or recreational space requirements for affordable housing. Please refer to the Administrative Procedures and HUD Income Guideline links below for additional guidance. The application may be submitted directly to your project manager at DDES when you submit your permit application or very soon after you have submitted it. It may also be submitted to Rose Curran at DCHS who will forward it to DDES for preliminary review. However, it cannot be evaluated or approved by either DDES or DCHS until a permit application has been completed and a DDES project manager assigned.
Road Impact Fee Waiver and School Fee Exemption Programs
Both the Roads Mitigation Payment System (a.k.a. road impact fee) and the School Fee Exemptions are available to for-profit and non-profit housing developers doing projects in unincorporated King County, as well as to moderate-income households who are building their own home on property in unincorporated King County.
The adopted Administrative Procedures and Qualifications to Obtain School Impact Fee and Roads Mitigation Payment System (MPS) Exemptions for Low Income Housing is now available. Please refer to it for requirements and procedure for applying for the school impact fee or roads MPS exemption.
The purpose of these administrative policies and rules is to implement the provisions of King County Code Chapter 21A.43 and King County Code Chapter 14.75 exempting low or moderate income housing from school impact fees and the road mitigation payment system. These policies are also in accordance with the King County Consortium Consolidated Housing and Community Development Plan (Consolidated Plan) policies regarding affordable housing incentive programs.
The fees can be waived for any rental unit that is affordable to households at or below 60% of median income; and for any ownership unit that is affordable to households at or below 80% of median income. The entire development does not need to be affordable to the specified income group. The housing units for which the fees are waived must remain affordable for at least 15 years per a signed agreement.
Please visit the King County Department of Development and Environmental Services for more information on the Mitigation Payment System.
If you are a housing developer seeking more information about these programs, please contact Rose Curran by email or by phone at (206)263-9268 or Cheryl Markham by e-mail or by phone at (206) 263-9067.
If you are a moderate-income household building your own home in unincorporated King County, you may qualify for fee waivers; please contact Shirley Jewett by e-mail or by phone at (206) 263-9095 for more information.
Density Bonus Program for Affordable Housing
The Density Bonus program is an incentive program to encourage developers to build affordable ownership and rental housing. This program is only available for projects in unincorporated King County, but many cities in King County have their own similar incentive programs. Density bonuses are also provided for other public benefits, such as open space, trails and parks, historic preservation and energy conservation. (See King County Code 21A.34 or the Department of Development and Environmental Services web page for more information)
For every affordable unit that a developer promises to build, he or she can build a calculated number of market rate units greater than would be allowed otherwise. Take for example, a site with zoning that allows a maximum of 30 rental units. If the developer promises, through a written agreement, that 10 of those units will be affordable to households at or below 50% of median income, the developer can increase the density of the project to 35 units. The affordable units provided through the density bonus program are called "benefit" units.
There are limits on both the zones where density incentives can be earned as well as a limit on the number of density bonuses allowed.
Size of bonus
Rental Housing: The amount of the bonus allowed depends upon whether the benefit units serve seniors or non-seniors and whether or not the housing is a senior-assisted project. The bonus sizes range from 1 to 1.5 bonus units per benefit unit. (See K.C.C. 21A.34.040[F.1.a,b, and c])
Ownership Housing: The amount of the bonus depends upon the length of resale restriction, if any, that is put on the property.
The ownership bonus ranges from .75 to 1.5 bonus units per benefit unit. However, projects in which 100% of the units are affordable are allowed a density of 200% of the base density of the underlying zone. (See K.C.C. 21A.34.040[F.1.d-g.]).
Rental Housing: A recorded covenant specifies the income level served, rent levels, and reporting requirements. Senior-assisted benefit units do not require a covenant.
Ownership Housing: Requirements depend on size of bonus, as follows:
- .75 bonus unit per benefit unit has no restriction on resale. Final approval conditions shall specify requirements for reporting to King County on both buyer eligibility and housing prices.
- 1 bonus unit per benefit unit: 15 year restriction binding prices and eligibility on resale to qualified buyers on the benefit units. Final approval conditions shall specify requirements for reporting to King County on both buyer eligibility and housing prices.
- 1.5 bonus unit per benefit unit: 30 year resale restriction binding prices and eligibility to qualified 80% of median income buyers on the benefit units. A recorded covenant on the site that specifies the income level and other aspects of buyer eligibility, price levels, and reporting requirements.
- 200% of base density (only projects with 100% affordable units quality for this size density): 15 year resale restriction on all the units. Final approval conditions shall specify requirements for reporting to King County on both buyer eligibility and housing prices.
All benefit units must be rented or sold to eligible households. There shall be no provisions for releases from the sale or rental of benefit units to eligible households. Benefit units may be resold to non-eligible households only when the resale restriction, if any, expires.
Income Eligibility for Benefit Units
Income eligibility for benefit units is determined by the 2010 HUD Income Guidelines for King County. Affordable rental payments and home prices by household size and income level are estimates based on specific current conditions which are subject to change.
Permitted Zones: R-4 through R-48 and NB, CB, RB, and O when part of mixed use development. The site must also be served by a public sewer.
Parking: If 100% of the units are affordable, then one off-street parking space per unit is required. Otherwise, for benefit units, parking will be provided at 50% of the levels required for market rate/bonus units as cited in KCC 21A.18.
Recreation Space: Provision of on-site recreation space for projects with 100% affordable housing is at 50% of the levels required in KCC 21A.14. All other Density Bonus proposals shall provide recreation space for the market rate/bonus units at levels consistent with KCC 21A.14, and for the benefit units at 50% of levels required for market rate/bonus units.
Review and Approval Process
Review Process: Density Bonus proposals are reviewed concurrently with a proposed subdivision, conditional use permit, or commercial building permit. The Density Bonus proposal requires a public hearing.
Final Approval Conditions: Final approval conditions shall specify the requirement that the benefit units are priced and/or rented at affordable levels as well as requiring that those units be rented and/or sold to the eligible income group. The conditions will also specify the requirements for reporting to King County on both buyer eligibility, housing prices, as well as any applicable requirement to record a covenant or to enforce resale restrictions.