Formerly Homeless Seattleites Find Home in a Tech Building

While rents are beginning to rise across Seattle, there are still some new construction projects that haven’t received their expected tenants, thanks to the long-term effects of the pandemic. One such project, a multi-unit apartment building on Capitol Hill called “The Clay,” has turned a lack of renters into a positive for the larger Seattle community.

The project was initially conceived for tech workers in the area — with an appealing modern design and a prime location within walking distance of Amazon’s headquarters, numerous other tech jobs downtown, bars and restaurants and even the light rail. Overall, The Clay is made up of 76 small-efficiency dwelling units (SEDUs) that max out at 330 square feet per unit.

With remote work and flexible work arrangements leading many renters not to renew their leases or seek new ones, the owner of The Clay decided instead to sell the building to the city in October 2020. Seattle’s nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) decided to step in and purchase the building. The organization serves people experiencing homelessness, and was able to put together $18.2 million in funding from the city, state and the National Equity Fund to facilitate the purchase.

The new tenants of the building typically earn about 30-40% of the area’s median income, and pay 30% of their income toward rent. Through LIHI, the tenants will have access to an on-site case manager and 24/7 security for the property.

There’s also a ground-floor retail space that will become a community space including a computer lab, communal kitchen and library.

According to the most recent report by King County from September 2020, there were about 12,000 people experiencing homelessness in the county. Some estimates indicate that Seattle needs about 6,500 more permanent supportive housing solutions to meet the current needs of the community.

While it won’t solve all these problems, The Clay is an excellent place to start. Not only is it a permanent housing solution for those in need, it was also built with high-end features and amenities that many housing solutions do not typically include. Amenities like in-unit washers, dryers and dishwashers give residents the ability to live with dignity in a safe, secure environment.

Although the timing of LIHI’s acquisition of The Clay was fortuitous, it’s not clear if many similar opportunities will arise as the state slowly reopens. The organization is keeping tabs on other likely opportunities, and continues to plan for the future while meeting the needs of its community today.

This article was originally posted on Next City by Gregory Scruggs.

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