By Aaron Allen
The Seattle Medium
Over the years, the City of Seattle has seen a number of affordable housing developments built in central and southeast Seattle. However, many people who currently and historically live in these neighborhoods often ask themselves the question, affordable for whom?
When asked what the term “affordable housing” means in realistic terms to ordinary people, Kathleen Hosfeld, executive director of Homestead Community Land Trust, a non-profit organization that develops and holds land in trust for the affordable housing and other public benefits, said that “there is a technical answer to this question.
“In affordable, there are certain standards for measuring income that are determined by Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” says Hosfeld. “The HUD income limits that are set and published at this time govern what we say is affordable in both rental and ownership, anything subsidized, they call it the median area income.”
“That’s the technical part of the conversation,” Hosfeld continues. “But here’s what I think your question may indicate is that the HUD determines the median income which determines how we price housing, it doesn’t really reflect the reality of people, regular people.”
Homestead Community Land Trust, Edge Developers, the City of Seattle, and other community partners seek to change this narrative by building homes and making them available to “ordinary people.”
To that end, Homestead Community Land Trust and Edge Developers recently announced the completion of Village Gardens, an affordable homeownership development located in the central area of Seattle. Village Gardens is comprised of 10 affordable homes for income-eligible households and six market-rate units, all built without fossil fuel to achieve a Built Green Four-Star environmental standard. Community Land Trust (CLT) homes will be sold under the guidance of the City of Seattle’s Community Preference Policy, which gives people with historical ties to neighborhoods at high risk of displacement the first opportunity to buy homes In the region.
According to CLT, homes in the development on the site cost between $237,000 and $302,000. This is made possible through partnerships with buyers and one-time investments that subsidize the initial price of homes. Owners purchase the building structure of the house itself, while Homestead retains ownership of the land which is leased to the owner for a small monthly fee. In exchange for the ability to purchase a home at rates well below market, buyers agree to limit home appreciation to a formula that keeps the home affordable for subsequent income-qualified buyers. Each home can be resold up to seven times over a 50-year period, providing multiple families with the social, health and financial benefits of a fixed, affordable housing payment in a quality home. To be eligible to purchase, buyers must have an income below 80% of the area’s median income as determined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for the King County area.
“That’s what we do,” Hosfeld said. “We are a non-profit builder. In fact, we have to go out and fundraise, we don’t make money building houses. We don’t do a markup and that’s community service, our goal in community licensed homeownership is to take that whole ‘profit’ equation out of the house so you’re not buying from someone who tries to raise the price, in fact we raise funds to try to lower the price.
Through its partnership with the City of Seattle, CLT has brought homeownership investment back to the people who need it most – low-income buyers and first-time buyers. Additionally, they hope to inspire people of color who have a long history in the core area and surrounding neighborhoods to return to the community.
“The City of Seattle is proud to have been a partner in making Village Gardens a reality,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Rising costs have driven too many longtime black neighbors out of the Central District. In “One Seattle,” we know that this type of affordable, intentional, community-focused housing is an essential tool in addressing the housing crisis and restoring neighborhood roots. »
“Village Gardens is one way the city has invested in bringing people back to the neighborhood and supporting the wider community,” Harrell said. “By combining the transfer of public lands, the investment of Seattle Housing Levy dollars and close partnerships with community organizations such as Homestead Community Land Trust, Edge Developers and Africatown Community Land Trust, generations of first-time home buyers low-income home will have the chance to call Village Gardens home.
In addition to home ownership, the Village Gardens project has also provided economic opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses (WMBEs). As a result, black contractors were awarded $1 million in subcontracts for the project, and WMBE’s total stake in development contracts was 40%.
“The black community has called the Central District home for nearly 140 years,” said K. Wyking Garrett, president and CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust. “It is absolutely essential that our community have access to affordable home ownership, like the homes in Village Gardens, in order to be part of the future of the neighborhood. Homestead and Edge responded to community posts about what’s built, for whom, and with whom it’s built. This project represents a light on the way, and that another future is possible.
Hosfeld agrees and says the project is not just about providing affordable pathways to homeownership, but also about intentionally determining who will gain valuable work experience and benefit from economic investments in the project.
“One thing that’s extremely important is our partnerships with the community,” says Hosfeld. “We were really intentional to partner with community leaders and organizations to raise awareness about the project with buyers, as well as black entrepreneurs and women and minority-owned businesses. That was a really successful part of the project, it empowered people even those who might not be buying property but still could benefit from the economic activity that was going on there, we think that was a really important part of this project.