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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