One of Capitol Hill’s leading affordable housing and arts activists Michael Seiwerath is taking his expertise to South Seattle as the new Executive Director of SouthEast Effective Development (SEED). Recently the Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs at Community Roots Housing (formerly Capitol Hill Housing), Seiwerath oversaw fund development, communications, and government relations for the nonprofit since 2008. During that time he was the founding Executive Director of the Community Roots Housing Foundation, an independent nonprofit that helped fund Community Roots. He was also an important part of creating 12th Avenue Arts, and establishing the Capitol Hill Arts District in 2014, the first of the city’s arts districts. At SEED, he will work with partners like HomeSite, Rainer City Arts, and the City of Seattle to create affordable housing, arts and economic development for Columbia and Hillman Cities.
Before joining Community Roots Housing, Seiwerath was the Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum. During his 12 years there, Seiwerath helped start the state’s first nonprofit cinema, The Grand Illusion Theater, and oversaw the NW Film Forum’s development of its current home on 12th. (12 seems to be a magic number for Seiwerath.) He is also a film producer, having worked with Charles Mudede on films like Police Beat in 2005 and last year’s Thin Skin.
As he looks back on a legacy of creating lasting affordable housing and arts spaces on Capitol Hill, Seiwerath shared his reflections with CHS about what has changed, and what hasn’t.
Some answers have been edited or condensed for brevity.
What are some reflections on your last 12 years of working for greater affordable housing and preserving arts spaces on the Hill?
Well, it’s hard when you’ve been working on something for a decade and it’s only gotten worse. It’s encouraging that our elected officials now recognize the scale of the homelessness and affordability crisis. That’s progress. We’re still not there yet on the political will to prioritize sufficient resources to solve the problem.
A positive thing I’ve seen in [my] 12 years is partnerships. 12th Avenue Arts was an innovative partnership with performing arts groups, nonprofits, [and] affordable housing in the city. Liberty Bank Building is a partnership with a higher capacity, long standing developer and Black-led community based organizations in the Central District. We’re doing it again with Africatown Plaza across the street, and the LGBTQ-affirming low-income senior housing on Broadway. I’m really proud the goal is to have GenPRIDE own its ground floor home.” Continue reading