Thousands of Seattle Housing Units Blocked by Lawsuits

Legal challenges filed by condo associations are holding up multiple high-rise housing developments that could bring much-needed housing and jobs to downtown Seattle.

1 minute read

March 2, 2023, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View of Seattle skyline with houses in foreground

Frank Fell Media / Seattle, Washington

A series of lawsuits from existing condo buildings are blocking nine new major housing developments in Seattle, preventing more than 3,000 units of housing from being built. If completed, the projects would also contribute $39.4 million to the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program.

According to an article by Andrew Engelson in The Urbanist, the plaintiffs in the lawsuits include an association of condominium owners that claim the developers of new projects are not providing sufficient mitigation measures for impacts on local access, traffic, and views. 

The Seattle Department of Constructions and Inspections (SDCI) design review process, says spokesperson Bryan Stevens, “is not intended to be a vehicle for delay, but some may use it to challenge issues beyond the basis of a decision to cause delay or invoke a settlement. Our staff work to file motions for dismissal of appeals deemed to be erroneous or without merit.”

The SDCI is reviewing its design review process to recommend improvements, which could include exemptions for affordable housing projects. “Meanwhile, a bill moving forward in the legislature introduced by Representative Amy Walen (D-48, Bellevue) would ban design review for housing projects statewide.”

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