Thursday night, the development process set to replace the former Section 8 subsidized Chateau Apartments in the Central District will grind forward with another early design review but residents of the old building got some welcome news earlier in the week with a plan that will provide them with new housing opportunities in the neighborhood thanks to the Low Income Housing Institute.
Developer Cadence Real Estate announced what it called a partnership with the Low Income Housing Institute “that will enable all Section 8 residents at the Chateau Apartment building in the Central Area to stay in the neighborhood.”
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“The Low Income Housing Institute is pleased to offer low income residents of Chateau Apartments a new home so they can continue to live in the neighborhood,” LIHI executive director Sharon Lee said in the announcement.
Under the plan agreed upon by Cadence and LIHI, the Housing Assistance Payment contract that oversees Section 8 resident vouchers at the Chateau Apartments will be transferred to LIHI. Lee said that HUD will be providing residents with portable Section 8 vouchers and that LIHI will prioritize residents who are being displaced for apartments at the nonprofit’s Abbey Lincoln Court, which has 68 affordable apartments.
“We have a new building under construction, An Lac Apartments, which will be completed in March 2020. Chateau Apartments residents can also move to this new 69-unit apartment community,” Lee said.
District 3 representative Kshama Sawant — who said residents of the former Section 8 subsidized apartments had won an “unheard of concession” thanks to her office’s advocacy work this spring after the building was purchased by Cadence — told CHS the announcement was an important victory heading into her unveiling of proposed Seattle rent control legislation earlier this week.
“It is not coincidence that this is coming now. We want the word to spread,” Sawant said, adding that the “victory” for the Chateau tenants shows that “when we fight, we win” and that affordable housing supporters must build a “citywide movement against corporate housing policies.”
“That message is particularly crucial in a policy like rent control,” Sawant said.
Cadence says it has also “voluntarily delayed redevelopment of the building” so the Chateau’s “21 residents can stay in place as long as possible.” The developer says it is also providing $5,000 for all households to help with relocation assistance, which is in addition to the $3,900 that low-income households receive as part of the City of Seattle’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Program. Half of that assistance is paid by the developer; half by the city, Cadence says.
But Sawant cautioned about giving too much credit to Cadence. She said the developer initially discussed solutions like possible compensation for transferring the contract. Instead, Sawant said the pressure of activism and protest forced a better outcome for tenants.
“This is a particularly important victory for the tenants against a corporate development,” Sawant said. “They felt the heat of the movement.”
The development process, meanwhile, marches on. Thursday night, the Central Area Design Review Board will take up the proposed 70-unit project for a second round of early design review, asking for a cleaned-up, simpler concept for the project’s facade, massing more appropriate for the surrounding neighborhood at the northeast corner at the intersection of 19th Ave and E Fir, and replacing a proposal for four off-street parking spaces in the middle of the building with “open space suitable for a future garden area.”
Displacement and the future of the building’s tenants are not on the agenda. The board’s notes, however, record that a handful of public speakers asked the board about just including one speaker who “asked the applicant to provide an agreement in writing to the residents of the apartment building regarding their relocation within the neighborhood,” and another who suggested the developer “set aside units within the new building for the existing residents.”
“Concerns with resident relocations and providing units to accommodate families are not part of this review,” the review board transcript from July dryly notes.