Affordable housing developer Capitol Hill Housing has branched out far from its start on 15th Ave E. Its new name reflects its expanded focus — Community Roots Housing.
“Our name has changed, but our mission as an organization has not,” CEO Chris Persons said about the change. “We remain committed to building vibrant, engaged communities, and our new name reflects our record of doing that – throughout the Seattle area.”
CHS reported here on the organization’s name search as it worked to winnow down a list of finalists.
The 12th Ave-based developer announced the new name this week as it continues its work on new projects across Capitol Hill and the city — as well as a new project that is building community, not mixed-use.
As the COVID-19 crisis compounds the stressors of food insecurity and unemployment across Washington, CRH is trying to offer its residents one less thing to worry about: meals for themselves and their families.
The organization has partnered with three other affordable housing developers — Mercy Housing Northwest, Bellwether Housing and SCIDpda — to deliver meals from local restaurants to residents living in affordable housing buildings. This Community Kitchens for Affordable Housing Residents Program is part of CRH’s larger approach to aid residents and commercial tenants during the COVID-19 crisis.
Donna Moodie, executive director of CRH’s Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, said this program is a group effort among the different housing developers, funded by a $500,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation that will compensate restaurants preparing complimentary meals for these residents.
“The grant proposal was written together with the idea that we would all partake in the same mission of trying to get some meals to residents that were in need of food and that we would use restaurants that were in need of business to create the meals,” said Moodie.
A number of restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, including Osteria la Spiga and Zaika, have catered meals thus far, and the program hopes to add Palermo Pizza & Pasta, Terra Plata, Mamnoon, Ba Bar and more to the list.
Moodie explained there was an original intention to only use restaurants that are commercial tenants in CRH buildings — like Zaika and Palermo — but the search for viable restaurants expanded since certain spots were closing as a result of the pandemic and others lacked space to prepare the meals at a larger scale.
“They’re not cooking maybe exactly what they used to cook before the pandemic but they’re making really beautiful, nutritious, well-balanced meals for residents,” Moodie said.
Moodie has experience in the food industry as the owner of Capitol Hill’s Marjorie, and explained the restaurant may be donating meals to the program in the future but for now is being used as a space to gather meals from other restaurants for distribution.
“I have a food background as well and I hate wasting food, so it was really important to me to try to find out a way to do it and make sure we had accurate numbers,” Moodie said. “I was comfortable starting off a little smaller with the idea that we would build it to something a little bit more broad.”
Launched in 1976, Capitol Hill Housing began by acquiring old buildings to turn them into income restricted housing. As the organization grew, it moved into rehabilitating midsize buildings. When the housing pressures around central Seattle mounted, it lead the organization to embark on ambitious new construction projects under the mission of creating “vibrant and engaged” communities. Community Roots Housing’s growth is hoped to be a template for more affordable development in Seattle. Last year, city officials also came to 12th Ave Arts to sign the expansion and upzoning of Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program because the development represented so many goals of the new legislative effort. CHS reported here on CRH’s next major Capitol Hill project, a planned eight-story “LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing” development on Broadway.
Meanwhile, its meals program began mid-May and currently serves residents of eight CRH buildings upon request, delivering food once a week as of now.
“We served 130 meals our first effort and then 200 the next time and we’ll keep increasing that,” Moodie said.
CRH owns 47 apartment buildings in Capitol Hill and beyond, accommodating households earning below $17,000 per year on average. CHS reported in March that Community Roots Housing will not be increasing tenant rent for the rest of the year and has created a COVID-19 Resilience Fund with over $250,000 to assist commercial tenants and residents.
According to Moodie, the meals program will run through the end of the summer and the Bank of America grant should cover its stated mission.
“There are many restaurants and many organizations that are committed to feeding people, and they’re committed to feeding people because the need is there,” Moodie said. “That need isn’t going to go away, it’s not going to be over when our grant is used up, it’s not going to be over when things start to return to what we call the ‘new normal.’ ”
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