— WA Housing Finance (@WSHFC) December 9, 2015
Mayor Ed Murray announced Wednesday the allocation of $45 million dollars to fund eight new affordable housing projects throughout Seattle, amounting to a total of 809 new units.
Funded by a 50/50 combination of revenue from the City’s incentive zoning program (which allows developers to build affordable housing or pay into the city’s affordable housing fund in exchange for extra floor area) and the age-old housing levy, this investment sets a new record for the amount of public money given out to affordable housing developers through the Office of Housing’s annual rental housing program awards. During the year 2015, the Office of Housing awarded $22 million, equaling a total of around 450 units (according to the Mayor’s office).
Murray framed the investment as chipping away at the goal set by himself and the HALA committee of building or city acquisition of 20,000 new affordable units over the next decade. “These 809 apartments are a step towards achieving 20,000 affordable homes over ten years, the goal set by the housing affordability and livability agenda,” Murray said.
Of the 20,000 new affordable units, the HALA committee called for 6,000 of those to be affordable to those making less than 30 percent adjusted median income (AMI), 9,000 for between 30 and 60 percent AMI, and 5,000 for 60 to 80 AMI.
“I’m trying to contain my excitement,” Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing, told the assembled crowd, going on to call the investment a “historic milestone for funding for affordable housing.”
UPDATE: Here’s a table of the how much the Office of Housing received in payments through the Incentive Zoning program by year. The payments are variable based on the development cycle.
|Year||Total IZ Pmts|
While none of the projects announced this week are located in District 3 (the locations range from Sandpoint to the Mt. Baker neighborhood in southeast Seattle), all of them are targeting people at the lowest end of the economic spectrum: low-income and chronically homeless families, individuals, youth, and seniors.
Most of the projects will offer units (of various types, multi-bedroom and studio) at rents affordable to those making between 30 and 60% of the AMI. Two projects, Sandpoint Youthcare and Estelle Apartments (developed by Youthcare and the Downtown Emergency Services Center), will offer units strictly at 30% AMI for homeless youth and chronically homeless individuals respectively. Sandpoint Youthcare will offer 19 units and Estelle will offer 91.
“That will literally change lives and it will save lives,” Murray said.
“If we are to ensure that we are a equitable city, a city that is inclusive of all communities, it is projects like this and the housing levy that we will face in the coming year that will make this city affordable.”
Mayor Murray also used the announcement as an opportunity to plug for the renewal and expansion of the housing levy next year. Since 1981, Seattle voters have continually opted to tax themselves (with cherished property taxes) to fund the development and operating of affordable housing, raking in a total of $388 million and producing 12,000 rent and income restricted units. The 2009 housing levy, which brought in $145 million, will expire at the end of 2016.
“If we are to ensure that we are a equitable city, a city that is inclusive of all communities, it is projects like this and the housing levy that we will face in the coming year that will make this city affordable,” Murray said.
In District 3, affordable housing developments have and could benefit from the housing levy Like many non-profit developers, Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) cobbles together housing levy dollars with various other private and public sources (like tax credits, grants, and the state housing trust fund) to finance projects. The housing levy helped fund developments like the 12th Avenue Arts building and the refurbishing of the Haines apartments, according to a CHH spokesperson. Several upcoming CHH affordable housing projects –he revamping of the Liberty Bank building in the Central District into affordable housing and the all-affordable housing project that will encompass the Capitol Hill light rail station —could potentially benefit from the housing levy, though the spokesperson said CHH doesn’t have a specific funding breakdown available yet.
“ Our most important tool, the housing levy, will be up next year. We will ask the people of this city to expand it and to renew it,” Murray said Wednesday. “Much of this year’s record investment comes from the incentive zoning program supported by the current construction boom. But this construction boom will not last forever,” he said, adding that the housing levy, in combination with the rest of the HALA recommendations —such as mandatory inclusionary zoning and pushing the legislature to increase the tax rate on real estate transactions — are “key” to building affordable housing once local development slows down along.
“I need to you to make this the number one priority for the new year, to pass Seattle’s housing levy in 2016,” Murray told the crowd.
Here’s a list of the eight projects that the 2015 rental housing program awards will fund.