Capitol Hill Housing to purchase Squire Park building at center of affordability fight — UPDATE

Tenant-leader Linda Johnson (Image: Tenants Union)

Tenant-leader Linda Johnson addressing the media in July (Image: Tenants Union)

Squire Park Plaza at 18th and Jackson (Image: Central Area Action Committee For Affordable Living)

Squire Park Plaza at 18th and Jackson (Image: Central Area Action Committee For Affordable Living)

Last month, tenants at 18th and Jackson’s Squire Park Plaza were joined by two Seattle City Council members to protest the sale of their building to a private company — a move tenants feared would reduce the number of affordable units currently offered by their nonprofit landlord.

Their calls for a new nonprofit building owner were answered on Friday when Capitol Hill Housing announced it would partner with Jonathan Rose Companies to purchase the 60-unit workforce housing building and even “enhance the existing affordability guarantees” at the building.

UPDATE: In a statement released Monday, a Squire Park tenants group said they were still highly skeptical of the sale and the private-nonprofit partnership. The group Central Area Action Committee for Affordable Living: Squire Park Plaza Tenants said the building’s current nonprofit owners, Central Area Development Association, failed to ensure CHH/Jonathan Rose would agree to a seven-point covenant drafted by tenants for a new owner.

Without a commitment for a 50 year affordability covenant, the property could be resold for a windfall as soon as 3 to 5 years, as the real estate market continues to climb. Neither CADA nor CHH gave us information on who is controlling the partnership between CHH and the Rose Companies. Nationally, there have been many examples of nonprofit and for-profit partnerships that do not serve the interest of low- and moderate-income tenants.

The $11.3 million sale is expected to take place in the coming weeks. Squire Park Plaza will add to CHH’s already substantial property holdings around Capitol Hill and the Central District.

According to the tenants group, the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute offered to buy the building for $11.6 million and increase the number of affordable units. On Monday the group called on CADA and Mayor Ed Murray to help seal a deal with LIHI.

UPDATE (8/5): Michael Seiwerath, executive director of the CHH Foundation, said in an email that CHH staff met with tenants to discuss their concerns and “agreed to everything they asked, without making false promises.”

“Reserves are low, there are long term commercial vacancies – CHH will fix those things,” he said. “We see our purchase of Squire Park Plaza as a strong example of the affordable housing industry finding innovative ways to provide affordable apartments without using scarce Seattle Housing Levy funds.”

The CHH announcement ends comes after a period of turmoil for some tenants who were dismayed by the city’s recommendation that the CADA sell the property, possibly to a private firm. CADA executive director George Staggers said in a statement he was pleased the building would continue to be owned and managed by a nonprofit.

“We could not be happier that this purchase by CHH is ending the concern that things could get worse for the tenants. CHH will provide strong, compassionate management and further the commitment to affordability that CADA began,” he said.

Using a mix of tax credits and federal loans, Squire Park Plaza was built seven years ago as a workforce housing project through an agreement between the city and CADA.

In June the tenants group began a change.org petition to submit 400 signatures to the mayor to ask his administration to not sell the building to a private company.

More CD development
Meanwhile, with increasingly fewer places to build new large scale developments on Capitol Hill, it seems inevitable that development will continue to push southward, especially along the First Hill Streetcar line slated to open this year.

Last week Lynwood-based developer Hardy, Inc. purchased two large parcels at 12th and Fir. The Lynnwood-based developer intends to build a 106-unit mixed-use project on the site. According to King County records, Hardy paid the Archdiocese of Seattle $7.1 million for the property.

Capitol Hill Housing, meanwhile, will also be digging in on a new Central District project in the near future as it prepares plans for a mixed-use, affordable housing project at 24th and Union. Across the street, this six-story, market-rate apartment project started construction this spring.

4 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Housing to purchase Squire Park building at center of affordability fight — UPDATE

  1. People living in a high rise apartment building will pay less rent than their neighbors who pay the market rate in similar apartments. Who actually pays the subsidy? The dot.com rich people? I think not. I’m guessing the neighbors who are paying the market rate to live in the neighborhood pay the difference.

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  3. if the buildings are for people who meet federal low to moderate income criteria, and the project is HUD-sponsored, the difference is made up through federal support. There’s certainly an argument that we all pay for federal subsidies, but I don’t see any way in which the specific neighbors of this association will be subsidizing their affordable housing.

    CHH has been a great developer, but I appreciate the tenants group wanting a 50-year assurance, having been burned once. Here’s hoping LIHI can seal the deal.

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