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Capitol Hill Housing picked to operate light rail station’s 86-unit affordable housing site

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All 86 units planned for Site B-North will be below market rate. (Image: Gerding Edlen)

A prominent Capitol Hill nonprofit will be taking the lead role in developing an all-affordable housing building as part of the four site, mixed-used project that will one day surround Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station.

Master developer Gerding Edlen has selected Capitol Hill Housing to develop, own, and operate the seven story, 86-unit building. According to Gerding’s winning proposal, half of Site B-North’s units will be restricted to households making no more than 30% of the area median income. The other half will be made affordable to households at or below 60% of AMI. Initial plans call for a community center and a day care, as well as a rooftop deck and computer lab.

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(Image: Gerding Edlen)

CHH’s involvement in the project still needs to be approved by the Sound Transit board. The affordable housing provider operates 42 apartment buildings mostly concentrated around Capitol Hill.

Gerding’s partnership with CHH comes after the Sound Transit board selected the Portland-based company in April to be the master developer of the 100,000 square foot, “transit oriented development.” According to Gerding, the company will purchase the affordable housing property from Sound Transit and sign leases for the three others. Contract negotiations for the properties, which are estimated to be worth around $25 million, are expected to last at least through this summer.

Site B-North was always intended to be developed and run by a nonprofit housing organization, but Gerding’s original partner pulled out from the project last year. CHH filed a formal protest when Gerding won the bid without first securing a nonprofit partner. At the time, CHH CEO Chis Persons said he believed it was an honest mistake.

Capitol Hill Housing had originally been part of a proposal with the Jonathan Rose Companies to develop the property.

The price tag for the outright purchase of Site B-North is $2,847,000, according to Sound Transit. Around 42% of that will go towards paying back federal transportation grants that were secured for the project.

Overall, the TOD plans call for 418 apartments with 38 percent of units to rent for below market rate for 12 years and Site-B North’s 86 units designated for “permanent affordable housing.” A third of the units will have at least two bedrooms. Gerding estimates the project to cost $124 million for three sites, not including the affordable housing site. According to the 262-page bid document, construction for Site A is slated to start around summer 2016 and last through August 2017. The entire project is expected to be complete sometime in 2018.

Meanwhile, the $1.8 billion light rail extension connecting downtown to the University of Washington under Capitol Hill is expected to open for service by early 2016. Sound Transit forecasts that by 2030, there will be 14,000 boardings a day at Capitol Hill Station.

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14 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Housing picked to operate light rail station’s 86-unit affordable housing site” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. I hope nobody misinterprets this questions, because it’s driven purely out of curiosity; but, isn’t having a rent cap based on income the same as rent control, which we’ve been told is constitutionally verboten? I assume the developer is doing this sort of voluntarily (meaning it was in the ‘contract’ they agreed to), but if ownership changed couldn’t they just challenge this as a form of rent control?

    • Units designated as Affordable Housing (as opposed to housing that’s just affordable) are subsidized through HUD and other funding, and income of the renter has to be verified every year to qualify. The developer also gets tax breaks from allowing certain units to be designated this way.

      Rent control means a limit on the ability to increase rents for all units, regardless of income, with no compensation or trade to the developer/owner of the building.

      • I believe that only 3 out of the 47 of Capitol Hill Housing’s properties are actually HUD funded. I’ve lived in a CHH building now for 3 years and could not be happier. I’m so glad they will get to control this building.
        Never assume that you don’t fit into the parameters listed for a unit. There are many factors taken into account which you can read at . Like any landlord though, you have to pay your rent on time. Problem tenants don’t last either.
        I’m so lucky I scored my apartment when I did. Not worrying about being priced out is just a huge relief.
        IMO we need more programs like CHH, not rent control. Track record on rent control is awful. Unless we reinvent it.

      • Very cool! That’s a great thing to know…we don’t get to hear success stories that often, and now I can root for CHH in the future.

    • No, because public subsidies are involved and the affordability requirement was part of the initial bid offering, which Gerding accepted by submitting its bid. Under standard government contract boilerplate, any successive owner would similarly be bound (at least for a set number of years, typically 25-30). Regardless, tax-credit housing rents are set according to federal guidelines; state law does not apply. This mechanism for housing development has existed in some form since at least the 1940s.

  2. Yay affordable housing! My rent is pretty decent now, but I have a feeling the next price increase is going to kick me out. Looks like I’m right in the middle of these options since I make about $28K/year. I’ll probably stick with roommates and keep to the craigslist housing market, but just out of curiosity, since I’d like to stay near the hill, does anybody know of low-income housing places that cater to the 40-50% AMI? If I get a raise I’d go for the $942 studios, but for now they’re out of my budget.

    In a few years, minimum wage will put people who work 40hrs/week at about a $30K annual salary, so I imagine there will be many of us looking for similarly priced apartments. So far I’ve seen most affordable housing focus on people who make way less or way more than that…

    • A lot of CHH units (though not these, apparently) are 50% AMI. Last time I checked a studio was about $650 at that level and a 1BR about $800.

  3. Why can’t they disperse the below market rate units amongst the other rental sites? Would be nice if they were blended rather than segregated.

    • I know, that kind of sticks in my craw too, but Gerding presumably wanted to do an upscale, high-rent project that would lose much of its appeal to that coddled demographic if they had to rub shoulders with low-income neighbors (and their kids). That’s just the world we live in, sorry.

      • I believe that the mixed and affordable split was created by Sound Transit in their RFP process, I don’t believe that it is the preferred development mix by Gerding Edlen.

    • Because the legally binding Development Agreement between Sound Transit and the City of Seattle requires that site to be reserved for development as low-income housing by a nonprofit. That was the trade ST made, in part, in exchange for being allowed additional density at the site without going through a re-zone.

      Middle-income affordable units are going to be scattered into the market-rate buildings, per the RFP and the Development Agreement.

  4. I am really glad to see affordable housing options for low-income people, but it frustrates me how there’s a lack of housing options for people who are in the (pretty big) gap between $37K/year and $100K/year. I’m doing fine myself, but a lot of my friends make $40-60K and end up having to live way out in the boonies, since even aPodment availability is pretty limited, and of course this leads to a vicious cycle of long commutes and needing to own a car and so on which makes their money go even more quickly.

    What’s the solution for this situation though? As long as there’s a free market and an endless churn of fresh-out-of-college brogrammers being brought in by Amazon, there’s going to be this strain on the housing market, and it’s not as if capping rent is going to make that problem go away and magically make inventory available, either…

    • I’ve often thought the same thing. That’s why I really like the Scandinavian model of governance – their democratic socialism works primarily for, and most benefits go to, that middle group which you speak of. It seems like a great way to have the majority of people see their government working for them and not (maybe wrongly perceived) for someone else – hence the Nordic support for responsible and progressive taxation.

      In this city a person making 50-60k a year is struggling to keep up because they don’t get subsidies where it counts…like free/really cheap daycare, higher education, health care, advanced public transport, and even access to really nice community health clubs. The working, healthy 32 year old with a “normal” (non tech) job gets very little return on their tax dollars in this country – okay, it’s there, but very hidden and not immediately obvious like elsewhere.