Using Surplus Properties for Affordable Housing

August 16, 2018

Many of our communities publicly owned land that is no longer a necessity; with our State’s desperate need for more affordable housing, it makes sense for jurisdictions to sell that excess land to below market rate for the production of income-restricted affordable homes and other public goods

The use of publicly owned surplus lands for the creation of income-restricted affordable homes is a great step toward a Washington State with affordable, safe, and inclusive communities. That’s why Futurewise assisted in the passage of SHB2382, which explicitly allows for the below-market value transfer of public surplus lands for the use of affordable housing.  

Seattle is one of the first cities to take local action in-line with SHB2382. In August of 2018, Seattle City Council unanimously approved legislation that will explicitly allow for surplus Seattle City Light properties to be sold at below-market value for affordable housing. Later this year, we expect legislation to allow for the transfer of any City owned property to be transferred below-market value for the creation of public goods.  

“Surplus land is important because it’s one of the best ways for us to reduce the cost and speed up the construction of affordable housing,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson. “The challenge is identifying the right parcels that have the right mix of characteristics to make sense [for affordable housing].”  

We are happy to see legislative changes that allow for better use of our public lands happening, but these changes alone aren’t enough. So, for the last few months we have been partnering with Enterprise Community Solutions to create an interactive mapping tool that will help transform underutilized public and tax-exempt sites into affordable homes and early learning centers. This tool will enable users to filter tax-exempt sites within King County’s urban growth area based on criteria that are important for the siting of homes and early learning centers.  

Over the next few years, we hope to see publicly owned land across Washington being utilized for the public good - especially if that means more affordable homes, more parks/open space and more early learning centers!