Seattle’s first community preference housing to hit the Central District

Seattle has long been the site of new projects in affordable housing, from the Africatown development in the Central District to the social housing initiative that was recently proposed. The goal of these varied projects remains the same: to reduce displacement in the city’s neighborhoods and lessen the effects of gentrification. With that in mind, a new “community preference” housing project is set to open in the Central District.

The development, called Village Gardens, features ten homes that will be sold to income-restricted residents and six units that will be sold at market rates. Village Gardens is built on land that was provided by the City of Seattle for affordable housing, and was funded by a public investment of $2.3 million, including $1.2 million from the Seattle Housing Levy.

Eight of the affordable homes will be sold to residents who make less than 80% of the area median income, while two of the homes will be available to individuals who make 60% of the median income and are experiencing housing insecurity.

While the affordability of Village Gardens is crucial in itself, the unique aspect of the project is its “Community Preference” housing policy, which provides individuals with historic ties to the neighborhood the first opportunity to buy. This policy aims to reduce the displacement that often comes with new developments, in which longtime residents in an area can no longer afford to live there. By giving locals a chance to benefit from this sorely needed affordable housing, the community preference policy helps to maintain historic communities, cultures and populations unique to a given area.

With the city’s history of redlining and racial covenants that made it nearly impossible for Black homebuyers to acquire homes in certain parts of the city, the Central District became Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood. In more recent years it has been disproportionately impacted by gentrification and affordability issues.

To combat this, the Village Gardens development not only will attract buyers with historic ties to the neighborhood but also places a special emphasis on supporting Black businesses to help with the development and construction of the project. Black contractors secured $1 million in subcontracts for the project, amounting to 20% of the total budget. Women and minority owned businesses amounted to a total of 40% of the contracts for the project. And the partners most deeply involved in the project include the Homestead Community Land Trust, Edge Developers, and Africatown Community Land Trust.

Village Gardens may be the first community preference project to hit the market, but the developers hope it will encourage further action to protect historic communities from further displacement.

This article was originally published on Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

Image from Village Gardens.

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