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Board adopts policy promoting equitable development near transit stations and facilities

Apr 26, 2018

Updated policy leverages transit investments to provide housing development options, create walkable communities, improve access to jobs, increase ridership

The Sound Transit Board today completed an 18-month process to adopt an updated policy for equitable transit oriented development (TOD). The policy will guide the use of property that remains as surplus after voter-approved transit investments are complete for projects that provide housing for families of various sizes and income levels and increase access to social and economic opportunities.

Consistent with regional growth plans, the updated policy focuses urban growth at transit centers and commits Sound Transit to work with local communities and stakeholders to develop projects on surplus property, while also encouraging TOD in nearby areas.

"Two of the biggest problems facing residents of the Puget Sound region are traffic congestion and the lack of affordable housing," said Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dave Somers. "With this new equitable transit oriented development policy, we will be able to make progress on both of these challenges. Sound Transit will continue to lead the country on both equity and building transformative mass transit systems to benefit all of our residents. As we make progress into Snohomish County with Lynnwood Link, we will continue to look for opportunities to better serve our community with faster, more dependable commutes and more affordable housing."

"Sound Transit's investments will not only speed up commutes but turn surplus property into affordable roofs over people's heads," said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. "This policy establishes one of the most forward-leaning TOD programs in the country. Work is already underway planning 600 affordable units in Seattle's First Hill, Capitol Hill and Roosevelt neighborhoods. More projects will follow as our system simultaneously expands north, south, east and west."

The goals identified in the policy include:

  • Increase the value and effectiveness of transit by increasing transit ridership.
  • Support implementation of state, regional and local growth plans, policies and strategies.
  • Make equitable TOD an integral component of and supportive of transit project planning and delivery.
  • Engage a broad cross-section of the public, reflecting diverse communities.
  • Encourage creation of housing options near transit with priority given to affordability.
  • Encourage convenient, safe multi-modal access to the transit system, with an emphasis on nonmotorized access.

The policy supports regional plans and policies, including the Puget Sound Regional Council Growing Transit Communities Strategy, adopted in 2013, to which Sound Transit is a signatory.

In 2015 the state legislature adopted legislation directing the agency to advance equitable TOD goals, setting forth specific financial and procedural requirements, and giving new tools to the agency to advance equitable development through prioritizing affordable housing in surplus property disposition. Those statute changes were reflected in the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure and took effect with the measure's November 2016 passage.

In accordance with the new law and subject to certain exemptions, Sound Transit will offer a minimum of 80 percent of its surplus property that is suitable for development as housing for either transfer at no cost, sale, or long-term lease first to qualified entities that agree to develop affordable housing on the property, consistent with local land use and zoning laws. Qualified entities include local governments, housing authorities and nonprofit developers.

If a qualified entity accepts the property through the offer, at least 80 percent of the housing units constructed must be affordable to those earning 80 percent of the area median income for the county in which the property is located.

Following adoption of the policy, the Sound Transit Board will develop documents and procedures, as well as a strategic plan for implementing equitable TOD throughout the region. Stakeholder input will inform these documents and procedures. The Sound Transit Board will receive an annual report on the program's status and performance in meeting statutory requirements.

Early transit oriented development projects stemming from the disposition of Sound Transit surplus properties are:

  • Senior City – a $16.9 million, 62-unit affordable housing development built in 2010 by the Korean Women's Association at the Federal Way Transit Center.
  • Mount Baker Station – an $18 million, 57-unit affordable housing development for artists built in 2014 by developer Artspace USA.
  • Othello Station – a $29.8 million, 108-unit affordable housing and mixed-use development built in 2017 by Mercy Housing Northwest.

Following incorporation of the board's final changes the equitable TOD policy will be added to the information on Sound Transit's TOD program that is available at www.soundtransit.org/tod.