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 they question, affordable to who?
When asked what the term “affordable housing’ means in realistic terms for everyday people, Kathleen Hosfeld, Executive Director of Homestead Community Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that develops and holds land in trust for affordable housing and other public benefits, says that “there is a technical answer to that question.”
“In affordable there are certain standards of measuring income that are determined by Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” says Hosfeld. “HUD income limits that are established and published around this time govern what we say is affordable in both rental and homeownership, anything that is subsidized, they call it area median income.”
“That’s the technical part of the conversation,” Hosfeld continues. “But here is what I think your question may be pointing to is that HUD determines median income which drives how we price housing, it doesn’t really reflect the reality of people, everyday people.”
Homestead Community Land Trust, Edge Developers, the city of Seattle and other community partners are looking to change that narrative by building homes and making them available to the “everyday 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 affordably priced homes for income-qualified households, and six market-rate units, all constructed fossil fuel-free to achieve a Built Green Four-Star environmental standard. The Community Land Trust (CLT) homes will be sold under the guidance of the city of Seattle’s Community preference policy, which allows people with historic ties to neighborhoods with a high risk of displacement the first opportunity to purchase homes in the area.
According to CLT, the homes in the development at the site are priced between $237,000 and $302,000. This is made possible through partnerships with buyers and one-time investments that subsidize the initial price of the homes. Homeowners purchase the building structure of the home itself, while Homestead retains ownership of the land which is leased to the owner for a small monthly fee. In exchange for the opportunity to purchase a home at far-below market rates, buyers agree to restrict the appreciation of the home to a formula that keeps the home affordable to subsequent income-qualified buyers. Each home may be resold up to seven times over a 50-year period, giving multiple families the social, health and financial benefits of an affordable, fixed housing payment in a quality home. To qualify for purchase, buyers must have an income below 80% of area median income as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the King County area.
“This is what we do,” Hosfeld said. “We are a non-profit builder. We actually have to go out and fundraise, we don’t make money on building homes. We don’t make markup and that’s the community service, our goal in community licensed homeownership is take that whole “profit” equation out of the home so that you’re not buying from someone trying to jack up the price, in fact we fundraise to try and lower prices.”
With their partnership with the City of Seattle, CLT has taken investment in homeownership back to the people that need it the most — low-income and first-time homebuyers. In addition, they hope that they can entice people of color that have a long history in the Central 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,” says Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Rising costs have driven too many longtime Black neighbors from the Central District. In ‘One Seattle,’ we know this kind of affordable, intentional, and community-driven housing is a critical tool for combating 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 broader community,” says Harrell. “By combining transfer of publicly-owned land, investment of Seattle Housing Levy dollars, and close partnerships with community organizations like Homestead Community Land Trust, Edge Developers, and Africatown Community Land Trust, generations of low-income, first-time homebuyers will have the chance to call Village Gardens home.”
In addition to homeownership, the Village Gardens’ project also provided economic opportunities for Women and Minority Owned Businesses (WMBE). As a result, Black contractors secured $1 million in subcontracts on the project, and the total WMBE participation in contracts for the development was 40%.
“The Black Community has called the Central District home for almost 140 years,” said K. Wyking Garrett, President and CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust. “It is absolutely critical that our community have access to affordable homeownership such as the homes at Village Gardens in order to be part of the future of the neighborhood. Homestead and Edge were responsive to the messages from the community about what is built and who it built for and who it is built with. This project represents a light on the path, and that another future is possible.”
Hosfeld agrees and says that the project is not only about providing affordable pathways towards homeownership, but also about being intentional about who will gain valuable work experience and benefit from the economic investments in the project.
“One thing that is extremely important is our partnerships with the community,” says Hosfeld. “We were really intentional on partnering with community leaders and organizations to do the outreach on the project for buyers and also Black contractors and women and minority owned businesses. This was a really fruitful part of the project it allowed people even those who may not be buying property but could still benefit from the economic activity going on there, we think that was a really important part of this project.”