Affordable housing goes up with new Seattle high-rise
A canceled light rail station has created a new opportunity for Seattle residents in need of affordable housing. Located on First Hill, a new high-rise recently opened to the first wave of residents, marking a win for housing nonprofits in the city.
Through the combined efforts of Plymouth Housing and Bellwether Housing, the 17-story building will provide homes to two unique demographics. The bottom portion of the building is called Blake House, and will provide permanent supportive housing for veterans and seniors coming out of homelessness. Plymouth Housing will run that portion, while Bellwether Housing will run the upper section, called The Rise. The Rise will serve residents with modest incomes, such as teachers, nurses and healthcare workers.
Blake House will eventually offer 112 units, while The Rise will serve an additional 250 families. The two housing sections will have separate lobbies and entrances.
The last time the City of Seattle built high-rise affordable housing was over 50 years ago. Since then, due to the expense of obtaining land and constructing such large buildings, nonprofits have struggled to fill the gap.
The reason the First Hill project was able to move forward was a loophole in city policy. Sound Transit had already purchased the land on First Hill for its proposed light rail station. When the station plans were canceled, Sound Transit had excess land in its possession. By law, the agency was required to offer 80% of its surplus land to affordable housing developers at a steep discount or for free.
The result is the building on First Hill, which will supply some residents with amenities they’ve never had before. At Blake House, residents have a shared laundry room, garbage chutes, and key fobs to access the elevator. The hallways are also wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers to pass each other side-by-side.
Looking ahead, many of the city’s housing nonprofits are hoping for similar projects in the future. As Sound Transit expands and has surplus land, there may be more affordable developments in the pipeline. Additionally, the developer money from Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program has grown, with further likely increases from housing levies in the future.