City announces $100M in affordable housing investments

Mayor Jenny Durkan did the honors of announcing more than $100 million in affordable housing investments being made by the city through the Office of Housing on Monday.

“Today we’re making a huge down payment on a more affordable future,” she said outside the Filipino Community Center in Rainier Valley.

The investment will create and preserve 1,450 affordable homes for rent and ownership, said Office of Housing director Steve Walker, which includes 896 new homes in nine new buildings around Seattle and preserving 535 existing units. This year’s funding will also support low-income first-time homebuyers through two developments totaling 26 homes.

None of the projects to receive funding are located in Queen Anne, Magnolia, Interbay, or Uptown.

Shari Wade shared her story of growing up in foster care, and going on to making poor choices that resulted in a criminal record and homelessness. That record prevented her from finding housing, she said, and not having an address affected her ability to find work.

After another four months in jail, Wade said she found out about Pioneer Human Services, one of the applicants to receive funding Monday, for an 89-unit development in the 1700 block of Belmont Avenue in Capitol Hill.

“I know securing my housing was 90 percent of what was responsible for curing me, both mentally, physically and spiritually,” said Wade, who now works for Pioneer Human Services as administrative assistant in real estate and project services.

Tapped to receive $8.8 million in Housing funding is Judkins Junction, 2214 S. Jackson St, a Community House Mental Health Agency development. Judkins Junction will include 74 apartments (25 studios, 31 one-bedroom and 18 two-bedroom units) available to families and individuals making up to 60 percent AMI. It is being constructed concurrently with the Patricia K Apartments at 23rd and Jackson, which will include Community House offices and a day center.

The city is granting $800,000 in funding to Homestead Community Land Trust and Edge Developers LLC for Yakima Ave Townhomes in the Central Area, which would provide up to 12 homes, at least nine affordable for ownership by families at 60-80 percent AMI. That project is proposed on surplus city land, and the Seattle City Council has not yet approved its disposition.

The mayor defended the decision to provide up to $29 million of the funding through affordable housing bonds approved by the city council in 2016.

“I think at this moment and time we have to look at every option we have,” Durkan said.

There is also first-year funding from the voter-approved 2016 Seattle Housing Levy, surplus property sales and $4.15 million in federal funds included as part of the city’s affordable housing investments announced on Dec. 18.

Walker told CHT only a small portion came from the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program, which has been implemented following upzoning in several neighborhoods, including South Lake Union, Downtown, University District and the International District. It requires developers to either provide affordable units in new developments or pay a fee for creating affordable housing.

“That spigot has not yet turned on,” he said.

Incentive zoning payments made up about a third  of the total investments, Walker said — $30.76 million.

“It’s a function of the market,” he said, “and the only sad thing is it’s a limited geography.”

Legislation for the MHA program has been sent to the Seattle City Council, and a full rollout is expected next summer, following a public outreach campaign that starts in early 2018.