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Originally published Friday, July 6, 2012 at 7:13 PM

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Affordable housing to continue at Northgate Apartments site

Advocates and the owners of the aging Northgate Apartments reached an agreement Friday to keep at least 66 low-income-housing units on the site, as the owners apply to rezone their property.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Advocates and the owners of the aging Northgate Apartments reached an agreement Friday to keep at least 66 low-income housing units on the site, as the owners apply to rezone their property.

The Mullally family, which owns the property, wants to rezone it for mixed-use development, but advocates had protested the change, fearing the loss of 207 low-income units on the site.

With an agreement in place, the advocate groups plan to support the rezoning plan, which will be considered by a city hearing examiner and eventually go before the City Council.

John Mullally, managing member of the family-owned business, called the agreement unprecedented.

"This will provide predictability and certainty if and when it is developed," Mullally said. "It is really a win for everybody."

Under the agreement, at least 66 units will be available on any future development, priced at 50 percent of area median income.

If the total number of residential units on site exceeds 660, 10 percent will be affordable housing.

The property is near the Northgate Transit Center and the future light-rail station, making it prime land for development. Mullally said the group has no plans at the moment to redevelop the land.

The site is currently zoned MR, for midrise multifamily, but the owners applied to rezone it as neighborhood commercial.

In March, the city approved the application but set five conditions, including that the developers add 3 to 5 percent of each new building's floor area as affordable housing.

The Seattle Displacement Coalition and the Maple Leaf Community Council balked and appealed the department's approval of the rezone request.

The Mullally family also appealed some of the conditions and the groups went into mediation along with representatives from the city Department of Planning and Development.

John Fox, director of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, said the level of cooperation between members of the community and the developers during the past two weeks was remarkable, adding that the family "stepped up to the plate."

"It sends a message to other developers that there is an alternative to just trying to ram development down a community's throat," he said.

Fox said many larger problems for affordable housing continue to persist with rent increasing and older buildings being demolished and rebuilt for new uses.

He estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 low-income units a year are lost in Seattle while 300 to 400 are built.

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