Sawant picks fight over displacement at Central District’s Chateau Apartments


District 3 representative Kshama Sawant Thursday rallied with supporters and residents of the Central District’s Chateau Apartments, a 21-unit Section 8 subsidized building purchased by a Seattle developer two years ago and slated to be replaced by a new microhousing project with 73 “small efficiency dwelling units.”

“The story of the Chateau Apartments is the story of Seattle and indeed every metropolitan region around the United States where we see sky high rent driving out working class people, low income seniors, community members who belonged to the immigrant community, the LGBTQ community, the disabled community,” Sawant said Thursday at the press conference in front of the neighborhood’s Good Neighbor Cafe. “And we are seeing Seattle increasingly becoming a playground for the rich.”

Sawant, who told the crowd she lives near the area of the apartments, called on developers Cadence Real Estate to “ensure that every Chateau resident can continue to live in affordable and accessible homes in their neighborhood” and urged the company  to meet with the residents as part of a Seattle City Council meeting next month.

In a statement sent to CHS and media Thursday, Cadence did not take Sawant up on her offer but said development of the property would not begin for “three to five” years.

In its statement, Cadence confirmed it is not renewing its Section 8 contract which will terminate at the end of this year:

Cadence has a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Section 8 program. A full year’s notice is required when/if a HUD contract is not being renewed. This notice was provided to HUD in the fall of 2018 and to residents of the Chateau Apartments in December 2018. Residents are welcome to stay at the building if they choose and were notified that there will be no changes to the building, their leases, or to their rent prior to the Section 8 contract ending on December 31, 2019.

Thursday, residents said they were notified that the Section 8 contract was going away but that communication about any coming development was not part of the conversation.

“I want to thank you Kshama for letting us know what was going on because he had no idea that they were going to even demolish the building,” said one resident who cares for her 88-year-old aunt in the building. “We did get a notice that they were going to get rid of Section 8 but you know, I said, we’ll just pay the difference because we don’t want to move.”

The speaker said the change will be especially traumatic for Mother Gordon who has been part of the building for decades. “She is upset and hurt to think that she’s going to be kicked out of her home because Cadence Real Estate want to tear it down and build new small units,” she said, saying that leaving the apartment will mean no longer being near relatives, her church, her doctor at Country Doctor clinic, and familiar stores.

The end of Section 8 status is also a tough change for one of the 21-unit building’s newest residents. “A month ago, we were living in our car — been in a car for a long time. In and out of shelters. Nowhere to call home,” he said. “I’m disabled. Can’t hold a normal job, can’t afford to pay a ton of rent.”

Choking back tears, the resident said he also learned the truth about the building’s changes from Sawant’s office. “A week after we moved in, council members come by and told us that they’re gonna tear my building down,” he said. “I just promised my daughter she had a place to call home for good and that we didn’t have to go back to our car, the tiny little truck we’ve been living in. A week later, I’ve got to tell her that we’re going to have to move again and we don’t have nowhere to go. Our case managers can’t help us get into housing for a long time.”

Cadence says it “has been proactive, reaching out to HUD and Seattle’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Program to ensure residents are cared for.”

Cadence said it and HUD will “work with residents who receive assistance under the Section 8 program to ensure their assistance continues.”  With redevelopment, Cadence said “we are committed to ensuring that our residents receive relocation assistance consistent with all local requirements.”

Assistance is regulated by the city’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance which provide relocation assistance to low income households and requires that all household be given adequate time to search for new housing and move. The ordinance is lined up to be somewhat expanded as part of the Mandatory Housing Affordability process.

Sawant did not discuss any new legislation or possible moratoriums during Thursday’s discussion. Earlier this week, she joined her fellow city council members in approving the MHA plan and associated upzones. Under MHA, the area where the Chateau Apartments building is located is considered at high risk for displacement and will have the highest tiers of fees for developers who do not include affordable housing in their projects. The zoning heights in the area did not change from “lowrise 3” but new buildings will be able to include more units after the final vote by the full council on MHA slated for later in March.

Cadence, meanwhile, is in early planning stages for the 73-unit, 16 parking space development that will replace the Chateau. It purchased the property in December of 2017 for $4,222,900, according to King County records. The SEDU project means the building’s units will have a minimum room size of 150 square feet and each will have a full kitchen or kitchenette. Cadence says it is also developing a separate work force housing apartment building at 21st and Yesler and “is committed to increasing the housing supply, contributing to the efforts that provide relief to the affordability issues in Seattle.”

Sawant is facing her second reelection challenge in 2019 as she competes in the race for the District 3 seat. District 3 challenger Logan Bowers criticized Sawant Thursday for not doing more to address displacement.

“Kshama is good at protests. But why did she upzone vulnerable communities while reserving 75% of the residential land in the city for huge houses—typically costing over $1 million?,” Bowers said referring to Sawant’s yes vote on the MHA committee. “Sawant has had six years to pass legislation to help with displacements city-wide. She hasn’t. She could have legalized duplexes, triplexes, and other workforce housing types in the wealthy neighborhoods. She didn’t. This is a crisis of her own making.”

Sawant, Thursday, focused on the role Cadence and “large developers” are playing in pushing people out of Seattle. “This is Cadence’s responsibility because Cadence is going to make large profits out of this project,” she said.

“We have our community here and we have the right to live in our neighborhood and they are demanding that Cadence has the responsibility to make sure that they have alternate, affordable and accessible homes to go to in the neighborhood.”


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50 thoughts on “Sawant picks fight over displacement at Central District’s Chateau Apartments

  1. This property is likely only being redeveloped *because* of upzoning… Had it remained only possible to put 21 apartments on the plot of land it wouldn’t have been commercially attractive tear it down and build new, but because they can now put 78 units that will still command high rents, it can be quite profitable. Upzoning is not preserving low rent units or creating more, it’s destroying them. Sorry Sawant, go protest yourself, you helped cause this in the first place.

      • Actually, yes, yes it is impacted….

        “The zoning heights in the area did not change from “lowrise 3” but new buildings will be able to include more units after the final vote by the full council on MHA slated for later in March.”

    • Turns out both myself and the article are not right.

      An extra floor in allowable zoning capacity is getting added as a result of MHA, and the floor-area-ratio is going to be able to be increased by 15%, but there isn’t a cap on the number of units now or after MHA.

      • The floor to area ratio puts a de facto cap on the number of units… because the MHA changes that, the units can be smaller and there can be more of them. So…. yes up zoning has affected this property. With changes to the definitions of even the current zoning an area doesn’t even necessarily have to change levels – it can remain L3 and still be “up zoned” – once MHA is in affect there will be more units and a taller building allowed there regardless.. If you don’t think that it’s influencing the developer, they why did they wait.

        And I’m sure that 21 of the 73 new units put there won’t be low income (if they don’t just pay the fee and make it zero – lets say they put in the max, there will be a whopping 8) – not that tiny efficiency units would even likely be appropriate for most of the current residents of the building…

      • Did the builder get to buy his way out of creating any affordable units, by instead contributing a pittance for the city to build affordable units only in Rainier Valley and further south? I still can’t believe that’s allowed as it creates economic ghettos. “You poor folk go live OVER THERE, we’re building expensive apartments HERE.”

  2. Sawant lost me and her voters after she dumped the democracy dollars for private out of state funding. Done and done. She speaks from two sides of her mouth.

  3. She votes to up zone these communities then protests when a land owner wants to improve their property and utilize the new zoning laws…..I don’t get it….maybe because its an election year???

  4. I still have no idea how maintaining the lower volume of available units while the city continues to grow will make more affordable housing. (Just like how keeping the showbox instead of turning it into a huge stack of apartments is going to benefit renters.) Sawant had her time where Seattle benefitted from her agenda; and that time has ended.

  5. Upzoning is a necessity to lower housing prices in Seattle and in the district, and supporting upzoning doesn’t preclude one from fighting to protect vulnerable communities. There are plenty of areas to upzone that don’t require kicking out a community of section 8 tenants.

    Sawant is right to fight this fight–those apartments are home and community to their residents, and we shouldn’t support their eviction in the hopes that 20 years from now the market will stabilize and those residents will be better off someplace else.

  6. Hey everyone,

    I’m having my campaign kickoff next Thursday, March 7th 5:30pm – 7:00pm at Reinhaus (12th and Spring) and I invite you all to attend (it is family friendly).

    I’ll be rolling out more about what I will do to address the issues facing our city, including housing and displacement. I encourage everyone to come, ask questions, and share your thoughts. See you then!

    • Logan, in order to consider voting for you, I will need to know EXACTLY what you would allow in single-family neighborhoods if some of them are upzoned. You have said “duplexes and triplexes and work-force housing.” I assume the latter would include apartment buildings, such as apodments….and that would be a deal-breaker for me, because they would destroy the fabric of our neighborhoods in the interest of developer profits.

      • I too would like to know how you reconcile upzoning with the part where arterials abut residential streets. A buffer zone to graduate upzoning would be far preferable than putting 6-8 story buildings 25 feet from 1 story houses. I’d also like to know the candidate’s stand on backyard cottages which make aging in place or caring for seniors an actual possibility that some of us are dying for.

  7. They got a full year notice and redevelopment won’t begin for “3 to 5 years”. That’s not enough? What are people expecting— that development won’t begin in the last person currently living there moves, or passes away in-place? Does it occur to them that these sort of restrictions don’t exactly encourage landlords to welcome Section 8 tenants?

  8. ““We have our community here and we have the right to live in our neighborhood…”

    Really? I wasn’t aware anyone had a “right” to live in *any* particular neighborhood. Only the right not to be *discriminated against* from living in a particular neighborhood.

    I think this statement here is a perfect distillation of why Sawant and many of her supporters are so frequently so wrong on so many issues.

      • No. Wealthier people don’t have the “right” to live anywhere either. What they have is the *means* to live (mostly)anywhere they want. I’m not suggesting income is fairly distributed, because of course we all know it isn’t. But wealthy people don’t have the right to live anywhere any more than low income people do.

    • Bingo.

      And with this being such a difficult and important issue, people saying such things are either not honest brokers or delusional and most likely will simply impeed real progress. It’s almost like a climate denier who refuses to accept basic facts.

  9. “We did get a notice that they were going to get rid of Section 8 but you know, I said, we’ll just pay the difference because we don’t want to move.”

    How does someone who can afford full rent (in this case a household consisting of an aunt and her niece) qualify for a Section 8 voucher?

    • Probably under this rule:

      “A household with one or more elderly, near-elderly, or disabled person who requires a live-in aid to provide supportive services may request a reasonable accommodation for a live-in aide to reside in the unit. The unit must be in accordance with CFR 24 Part 8. The housing authority may refuse the request or withdraw approval if the live-in aid commits fraud or any other criminal act in connection with any federal housing program, commits dug or violence-related criminal activity, or owes money to a housing authority.”

    • They CAN’T afford it, but they’re willing to sacrifice other things and pay it anyway so as not to have to move. This city is chock-full of people paying rents they can’t afford. I’m one of them.

      • I’m sure you are right. But, by definition, if you have the means (one way or the other) to pay the rent, then you can afford to live there.

      • @Bob Knudson No, that’s not what affordability means. If you’re paying so much of your income in rent that you can’t replace worn-out clothing or buy gas for your car (for example), you are paying rent you can’t afford.

      • You’re right. But, if you are paying so much in rent that you can’t afford basic necessities like food, clothing,health care etc…..then it’s time to move to a less expensive apartment, or get a better-paying job.

      • Are you replying to my comment? I just want to be able to stay in my 50’s era 1 bedroom apartment near my friends and health services. I’m paying 60% of my yearly earnings toward rent, motherfucker. I wasn’t asking for help, I was commenting on the thread above. The ageism and stereotyping of people who CAN’T afford to stay in their COMMUNITIES. “Just move. You’ve got a couple years.” Move where? The wait-list for low-income senior housing is 3-4 years long. A recent study identified that one of the main contributors to our homelessness epidemic is evictions. Your comment is shallow and unbelievably out of touch with what people at the margins are dealing with.

      • @mutha mary what you WANT and what you have a right to are two different things. i want a 3 bedroom tudor in madison park but i don’t have a right to it. no politician is rallying around a “give, @zeebleoop, a $5M mansion now,” message. and i think that’s what @southsound22 is trying to say. you WANT to live in your 50s era 1 bedroom but the property owner has the right to redevelop (within the law) the land they own.

        i’m sorry that things are changing for you. but there are other places to live. you don’t have a right to your 50s era apartment.

      • Ah the irony…. many of the people who ardently support the MHA and all these micro apartments support it because they ‘want’ to live in this neighborhood, but can’t afford it – therefore, we must give them more density, so that they can find an empty and affordable apartment here. Oh, but when it screws over people who already live here, what those people ‘want’ is too bad – so sad, you don’t have a right to live here…..

  10. I do understand the difference between “wants” and “rights”. I do understand the rights of a developer to make a profit. We are a capitalist country. It’s just really, really hard to see comments where people are acting like Section 8 recipients are gaming the system, or the simplistic answer of “There are other places to live”. Yes, there are. Further from my job (yes, still working full-time at a minimum wage job), further from my friends, further from my doctors… You are absolutely correct. I don’t have the right to stay where I am. The insensitivity to how desperate the circumstances are for some folks is what struck a nerve. That’s all.

    • Dropping f bombs on folks here isn’t going to earn you any sensitivity points, mutha.

      It totally sucks but so do many, many other aspects of life on Earth.

      Sorry, not sorry.

    • People commenting “there are other places to live” don’t seem to care that there is a years-long wait for senior housing. Some day those same folks will be on a limited income and will change their tunes. We are letting developers get out of providing affordable units, and that is shameful considering we have a homelessness crisis. Good for you for sticking up for yourself here against snarky comments.

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