A ruling issued Wednesday essentially gave Seattle the green light on its plan to use upzoning to create more affordable housing and density in 27 of its urban villages citywide.

Hearing examiner Ryan Vancil upheld conclusions of the city's final environmental impact statement for the MHA program, with the exception that it provides more analysis on the impacts on designated landmarks. 

The city's hearing examiner dismissed most of the claims made by neighborhood groups about the city's Mandatory Housing Affordability program, including problems with traffic, increased pollution, and its effect on small businesses.

"Appellants' arguments regarding impacts to small businesses are not supported by evidence, and failed to show that the FEIS was inadequate in this regard," Vancil wrote.

Nine neighborhood groups appealed the city's FEIS conclusions last year, further delaying implementation by the council. The plan to increase density in parts of urban villages throughout the city is supposed to produce 6,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. 

Council member Rob Johnson in a statement on Wednesday said it was one of the longest appeals in Seattle's history, adding that the appeal had already cost the city $87 million worth of affordable housing funds.

"With this legislation, we have an opportunity to allow for more desperately needed housing in urban village neighborhoods across our city, while requiring that all new development in those areas provide affordable housing,” Johnson said. 

Vancil in his ruling ordered the city to include more analysis on historic buildings, and it's unclear how much longer the extra work will take. 

The next step is for the Seattle City Council to approve the legislation; seven of the council seats will be up for election in November. 

The MHA program allows developers to build higher in exchange for them to either include a percentage of their new units to affordable housing, or pay a fee. 

The program would require developers to offer 2 to 11 percent in affordable housing units (affordable for those making less than 60 percent of the area median income) or pay a fee anywhere between $5 and $32.75 per square foot, depending on the area and type of development.

“As the current development boom winds down, it is my hope that we can adopt the citywide MHA proposal as soon as possible so as not to miss this development cycle and the opportunity to build affordable housing that comes with it," Johnson said. 

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