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Seattle City Council set to approve $1M no-interest loan to help affordable developer Community Roots Housing overcome COVID-19 losses

The Seattle City Council’s Finance and Housing Committee found little satisfaction Wednesday as it struggled to understand yet another loose end in the Seattle Police Department’s spending but it did make progress in addressing challenges from the COVID-19 crisis faced by the largest provider of affordable housing on Capitol Hill.

The committee voted unanimously Wednesday to extend an up to $1 million, no interest loan to Community Roots Housing as it tries to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.

The move will add stability to the developer and manager of 47 affordable buildings across Seattle with nearly 2,000 residents and sheds light on just how hard hit affordable providers and market-rate developers have been during the COVID restrictions. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impaired Community Roots Housing’s collection of revenues, including commercial and residential tenant rents, resulting in a loss of operating income of approximately $3.2 million in 2020,” the city’s analysis for the proposed loan reads.

According to the analysis, Community Roots Housing has been able to “mitigate” all but $1 million of the loss.

The loan is a unique opportunity for the city. Budget Office director Ben Noble said Wednesday that the city is allowed to make the loan and be responsible for the interest because Community Roots is a city chartered Public Development Authority.

Under terms of the deal, Community Roots Housing must pay back the loan by 2025.

Wednesday vote might also be a sign of things to come as efforts to recover from the pandemic’s financial impacts ramp up. Last week, King County officials pushed forward a proposal to loan the downtown convention center expansion $100 million as COVID-19 has severely dented hotel and lodging taxes that were to be harnessed to help pay for the project. The convention center developer said it would need similar actions at both the state and the city level to avoid laying off construction workers in 2021.

Community Roots Housing was previously Capitol Hill Housing. The organization changed its name earlier this year to better reflect its mission and its focus beyond the Capitol Hill neighborhood. CRH owns 47 apartment buildings in Capitol Hill and beyond, accommodating households earning below $17,000 per year on average.

CHS reported here on CRH’s next major Capitol Hill project, a planned eight-story “LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing” development on Broadway.

Its Station House opened late last year with 110 affordable units as part of the mixed-use development project above Capitol Hill Station.

The full council will vote on the loan proposal at its scheduled December 14th meeting — its last in 2020.

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