On site of future Broadway affordable housing, mayor announces $47M in levy investments

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray speaks at a press conference announcing $47 million for affordable housing projects.

City officials announced $47 million will be awarded to affordable housing projects on Thursday at Capitol Hill Station’s future “transit-oriented development,” which will include 110 affordable apartments.

Rising rents are driving neighbors out of the city or onto the streets, said Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing.

“Every city in the west has an affordability crisis, but in Seattle, we are leading the way on the west coast in addressing that affordability crisis,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray at the announcement to media on the empty, paved lots where Capitol Hill Station’s developments will eventually rise.

The Site-B North parcel will eventually be home to Capitol Hill Housing’s 110-unit, “permanently affordable” development. CHH is lined up to receive $8.7 million of the grants announced Thursday and has requested an additional $4 million from King County’s transit oriented development fund.

Velma Figueroa, affordable housing resident, shares her story.

Velma Figueroa, affordable housing resident, shares her story.

Velma Figueroa, a resident of the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s Aurora House, which was built and funded by the city in 2010, shared her story, providing just one face and voice for those whose lives have been changed by affordable housing.

In the late 1990s, Figueroa moved with her family to Seattle from New York City and they purchased a home. During the 26 years she was married, she was a victim of domestic violence.

“One day I decided to leave. I ended up on the street with my son,” Figueroa said.

She found the DESC shelter, and a case manager helped her find housing. In 2013 she moved into the Aurora House.

“After living on the streets for so long, Aurora has given me new life,” Figueroa said.

The 2016 funding awards will support the construction of six new buildings — with 472 apartments — and the preservation of three buildings with 138 apartments across Seattle.

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The economic divide has forced many people to move out of the city or into homelessness, said Chris Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing, a partner in the Capitol Hill Station project. Stable housing gives people a chance to move forward.

“Everyone deserves stable housing,” Persons said. “Everyone deserves a stake in our common prosperity. Everyone deserves a chance to reach their success. This new housing makes that chance a reality.”

The Capitol Hill Station development is “critical” Persons said to keep the neighborhood economically diverse.

Not only will there be affordable housing at The Capitol Hill Station development, but because the project will be located near public transportation, parks and groceries stores, the need for a car is decreased, easing that financial burden, Murray said.

Display boards about different affordable housing projects were set up at the press conference.

Display boards about different affordable housing projects were set up at the press conference.

Along with the 110 units at the Capitol Hill Station development, the $47 million will also go toward the following projects:

  • Community House’s new building in the Central District with 53 units for people with mental illness transitioning out of homelessness
  • DESC’s 98-unit building to severe chronic homeless people
  • The Low Income Housing Institute’s coming redevelopment of fire station 39 units for low-wage families
  • LIHI’s 70-unit building in Little Saigon for low-wage workers
  • Solid Ground’s Sand Point project serving homeless families
  • Plymouth Housing Group’s downtown project that serves the workforce
  • El Centro de la Raza for its Beacon Hill El Patio apartments

This funding is the last round from the 2009 levy.

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15 thoughts on “On site of future Broadway affordable housing, mayor announces $47M in levy investments

  1. Every bit helps but y’all realize don’t you that according to census data an ever increasing number of what should be gainfully employed adults are paying over 50% of their income for rent in this region? That is a secondary crisis, it isn’t just the poorest among us who are teetering on the edge. The majority of those living and working in Seattle and it’s environs still are not tech workers. I don’t have the answer but allowing “the market” to hose the majority of working people to cater to a minority of high salaried arrivals is, to say the least, unsustainable if not insane.

    • Agreed, Capitol Hill Housing hosts many people in the service industry and beyond. I know of many restaurant workers, personal trainers, hair stylists, local government employees, etc. who are able to live close to their jobs thanks to affordable housing.

      Moreover, due to the quality of the new affordable housing, many of the units are highly comparable to the market rate units. As a result, this decreases any stigma that may be associated with affordable housing.

  2. Rough maths indicates this 47mm creates 468 new homes costing about 100k per home. Aside from saving 132 existing homes. That doesn’t sound like a very good ROI.

    • Keep in mind that the funds also go to numerous other projects… just look at the bottom of the article.

      Also, per your math, 100k per unit cost is highly optimistic. Square footage construction cost for multifamily in Seattle is in my estimation well north of $200 a square foot. Once you factor in circulation and other efficiency factors, it probably goes up from there.

      I know there are fairly ingrained anti-government sentiments out there, and I get it. In this case the cost of construction does not seem to be as egregious as you are making it out to be. Can we extract greater cost savings for some of these projects? Yes, but its in the 5-20% range, not the multiple that you are implying.

    • It does not say that the funding will suffice to build these projects. It says it will go toward these projects. $100 K per unit will probably not pay the full cost. For example, CHS is looking for about 50% more funding for its projects, above what the city has allocated. Is there a guarantee these projects will come in at budge? I doubt it. Plus nobody’s talking about upkeep, which presumably will also be factored into the cost of these units.

      So why not just provide subsidy to renters, like Section 8 housing? This would provide relief to renters immediately and would avoid the risk of cost overages on these projects. It would also avoid the overhead of managing and maintaining these projects, which will also have to be paid by someone. Section 8 has been a very effective program to help low income renters; what’s better about a government owned housing model?

    • You can provide subsidies to renters… that’s one way to deal with out of reach rents. The other avenue that the city is taking is to add housing stock. The city is currently growing at 2.4%, which is significantly higher than our historic average. From 2000-2010 we were growing by less than 1% per year. What 2.4% leads to is approximately 15k new people per year within the city limits. We are close to outstripping our housing supply if we don’t build additional units. Vacancy rates are at historic lows, which is putting pressure on the market and driving up prices.
      By only providing housing vouchers, you are only relying on the private sector to provide housing and does not permanently create stable affordable housing. I’m all for both private sector stimulus of housing, as well as publicly funded projects such as these. In tandem, it will help to stabilize rents and hopefully bring down yearly average rental increases of near 10%. It doesn’t mean that prices will go down… just that rent increases will fall in line with a few percentage points per year.

  3. Thank goodness for Capitol Hill Housing and Bellwether Housing for long-standing affordable housing units. The city’s tax break for developers who allow a few “affordable” units into their market rate buildings is a farse. That much tax gain for so few units AND they can turn to market rate after 10 years? Yet another feed the rich and who cares about the vulnerable/poor. I was shocked when I learned of this. We need to do what Utah did and Houston is now setting up to do – look at the vulnerable respectfully. Make permanent, respectfully livable housing, social services, food, and medical care available to all the homeless. The math has proven out – providing full services/shelter/food is not only kind and caring to our vulnerable citizens but SAVES money! And more of the vulnerable who have the potential to get back on their feet do. Come on Seattle & Mr Mayor – do something really meaningful and proven successful like Utah.

    • Yeah, how can he say Seattle is leading the west when Utah did what they did? More like: Seattle is leading the way in pissing on fires.

    • Utah and especially Salt Lake City have much less of a homeless problem than Seattle does, so it was easier for them to do what they did with a lot less money.

    • You are comparing apples to a truck load of apples… Utah’s problem was far smaller – the entire state had fewer homeless people than the just the city of Seattle does. Salt Lake City has a list of 86 – yeah 86 chronically homeless people on a list waiting for housing… While I won’t say what they’ve achieved isn’t admirable, it is unrealistic to think it could happen the exact same way here.

  4. Although some will say that this plan is just a drop in the bucket, it’s at least a start towards a “housing first” approach to homelessness. For far too long, we have been throwing money at the problem with no real improvement. Now, this money will go to permanent housing, at least for some people, and that’s a good thing.

  5. Every time I take Link light rail south along MLK, I see acre upon acre of under-utilized real estate that could easily support much higher density, all within access of rail stations and a few-minutes ride to downtown. Why isn’t the city doing more to encourage development there? With land values cheaper and more plentiful than closer in, a lot more affordable housing could and should be constructed. I don’t understand why the city isn’t actively and visibly pushing for more development there.

    • At least at Mount Baker Station, the city has upzoned certain blocks to 145 feet height limits. Developers aren’t biting and it most likely has to do with hesitation on being the first developer to dip their toes into a stagnant micro market. There are small townhome developments and some small apartment projects being built nearby, but no one is really touching the large parcels that can support large development projects.
      When push comes to shove, developers would rather build in Ballard, Capitol Hill and West Seattle and pay the land premium than take a financial risk in the South End. The cost of construction is similar, but the risk factor on return on investment is greater in places like Rainier Beach. Columbia City and Othello are seeing larger projects being built and there are some early stage projects on Beacon Hill.
      Estimates based on building permit applications project a slowdown in overall construction in the Seattle area over the next 1.5 years. There will still be plenty of projects due to our growing population, but not at the rate we are see today. My gut tells me that if there is a dip in construction, it will disproportionately affect South End projects as developers continue to build in the most popular neighborhoods.