Roosevelt Link Station presents a big opportunity for equitable development. (Sound Transit)

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced $100 million of affordable housing investment yesterday at a press conference at the Filipino Community Center in Rainier Valley. The $100 million more than doubled last year’s Seattle Office of Housing budget, which tallied $47 million. Seattle passing a doubled housing levy and the Seattle City Council approving $29 million in bonding for affordable housing explains much of the jump in funding.

“Too many long-time residents are getting locked out and pushed out of Seattle. We need to urgently increase the amount of affordable housing to stop the huge displacement of people and provide permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Durkan said in a statement. “With this investment, our City is delivering on our commitment to create more affordable housing, including building 900 new homes and keeping 550 homes affordable for the next 50 years.”

Specifically, Seattle Office of Housing will fund 896 new homes in nine new buildings around Seattle, preserve 535 existing units, and support low-income first-time homebuyers through two developments totaling 26 homes via Habitat for Humanity and the Homestead Community Land Trust.

The blue dots represent where Seattle Office of Housing has created affordable housing since 1981 and the stars represent the new investments announced. (Seattle Office of Housing)

In theory, the City of Seattle sprinkles its affordable rental housing investments across all neighborhoods. The map above shows this year’s new housing investments did not touch West Seattle and only one went to North Seattle–granted the largest of them all. Strikingly neighborhoods like Magnolia, Madison Park, Montlake, and Upper Queen Anne have scarcely seen affordable housing construction in four decades. Wealthy neighborhoods should see affordable housing if we as a city are serious about equity and creating mixed-income neighborhoods. That is the promise of inclusionary zoning (which the City enacted with the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program) and it’ll be great when the policy bears fruit in that regard. We certainly could use the help if we are to reach “every corner” of the city.

Seattle Office of Housing’s largest investment in new housing (at almost $15 million) will go toward approximately 245 low-income apartments planned near the Roosevelt light rail station, which is slated to open in 2021. Bellwether and Mercy Housing Northwest are planning to serve households at or below 30%, 50%, and 60% of area median income (AMI).

Roosevelt Station will be adjacent to about 235 affordable homes. (Sound Transit)

Most of the others units are focused in Southeast Seattle and the Chinatown-International District, where Interim CDA’s Uncle Bob’s Place will create 104 affordable apartments (aimed at families and individuals make 60% of AMI or less). Plymouth Housing also won an award for 102 supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness, which it plans at the site of recently closed Linc’s Tackle in Little Saigon.

New construction awards. (Seattle Office of Housing)

Homestead Community Land Trust will build its affordable ownership units thanks to Seattle Office of Housing’s $800,000 grant for Yakima Ave Townhomes in the Central Area, which would provide up to 12 homes, at least nine affordable for ownership by families at or below 60% to 80% AMI. Homestead proposed that project on surplus city land, but has not yet been granted the land from the Seattle City Council.

The largest preservation award would go to The Frye. (Seattle Office of Housing)

Some had feared the increasing number and scale of affordable transit-oriented development projects near Link stations would overtax City resources. That day may come to pass, but the Seattle Office of Housing’s budget does stretch a bit farther with money coming in from the doubled housing levy and MHA in-lieu payments picking up pace.

Incentive Zoning Nets $32 Million To Help Fund 610 Affordable Homes


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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.