Across Broadway from the First Hill site. Credit: SolDuc Photography

On Thursday, August 3, Sound Transit staff briefed the ST board’s Executive Committee on the agency’s goals for two TOD projects near the Capitol Hill Link station.

Both projects will feature ground floor retail and affordable housing, and will build to the maximum density that their zoning allows. The First Hill site, near the intersection of Broadway and Madison, is zoned to allow for up to 13 stories in construction. The second site, which ST will procure through a land swap with Seattle Central College, will allow for seven stories.

First Hill site

According to Sarah Lovell, ST’s TOD Planning Manager, the First Hill site will have:

  • A minimum of 12 stories
  • At least 250 housing units
  • Affordable housing standards
    • At least 80 percent of units occupied by residents at or below 80 percent AMI
    • The buildingwide average income at or below 60 percent AMI
    • At least 80 units at or below 30 percent AMI
  • At least 8 percent of units will have 2+ bedrooms, for families
  • 4000 square feet of active storefront
  • Meets Washington State Evergreen Standard
  • Minimal auto-oriented design features

Sound Transit is in the late stages of negotiations with Bellweather Housing and Plymouth Housing Group. Staff hope to present the board with final contracts in August or September. ST does not plan to spend any funds on the project.

Pike/Pine site

The Pike/Pine site is midway up the block on the left. Credit: Gordon Werner

Lovell also briefed the Executive Committee on a more complicated project to be built on Broadway between Pike and Pine. The site is in a historic auto repair shop (the Eldrige Tire Building) between Neighbours and a mixed use building with Rite Aid on the ground floor.

According to Lovell, this project will have:

  • At least 7 floors, though with MHA it could have 8
  • Target 78 housing units
  • 100 percent of residents earning 60 percent AMI or below
  • 23 percent of units 2+ bedrooms, for families
  • At least 4,500 square feet of commercial space
  • Meets the Evergreen Standard
  • Restoration and inclusion of the Eldrige Tire facade

Lovell said that the income requirements will be locked in for 40 to 50 years, as part of a covenant typical to most private affordable housing developments. ST plans to work with Capitol Hill Housing to develop the project.

Sound Transit doesn’t yet own the plot. It will acquire the land through a swap with Seattle Central College, which currently owns the building. SCC will gain access to a lot on the west side of Broadway, next to the SCC portal to the Capitol Hill Link station.

According to Lovell, SCC intends to develop that project into its own mixed commercial and affordable housing TOD project. So, in a sense, Sound Transit will incubate two affordable housing developments when it makes the land swap later this year.

Sound Transit has clearly learned from the long-delayed projects above the Capitol Hill Link station. The agency’s thoughtful approach to these three projects, and its close collaboration with community partners, bodes well for its ambitious TOD program.

31 Replies to “Sound Transit incubating three additional affordable housing projects on Capitol Hill”

  1. I have a question.

    What do affordable housing communities do to ensure that their tenants remain in the appropriate income bracket?

    For example. Let’s say I move to Seattle, and in my desperate attempt to find a job, I take one working at at gas station. Since I’m only making $15 per hour, I’m well under Xx% AMI, and qualify for affordable housing. I find a place, and move in to an almost-new 550 square foot 1-BDR apartment for $990/month, in the heart of Capitol Hill. 6 months later, I secure an awesome job at Microsoft making $125,000. But I stay in my apartment because I’m paying close to 1/2 the market rate in my affordable unit.

    1. Don’t know if there is a universal policy, but Plymouth Housing Group’s rent policy is summarized on their website

      in thr FAQs under What We Do. Their website provides quite a bit of other information about low-income housing.

      1. Plymouth is an amazing group; my last firm gave a reception for them where they presented some of their projects and how they have been able to provide this housing as well as the problems and opportunities they are finding here in Seattle. They also spoke about the issues dealing with “fringe” populations and how they address providing safe and welcoming housing. I was extremely impressed by them. They are an asset to our city, as I’m sure other similar groups are, and worthy of support.

    2. Or, you move into affordable housing while you’re a student at the UW, with no income except for a Microsoft internship the previous summer, which only lasts 2 1/2 months, so still under the threshold, plus a couple of menial part time jobs on campus. Of course, all this with well-off parents subsidizing the rent. Then, you move on to a full time job, with a real salary, and continue to live there because the rent is below market, and you get to live in capital hill.

      The law of unintended consequences.

      1. …most of the affordable units are very limited on their access to students… it all depends on what program subsidized them but the majority are not available to students at all…

      2. I had to leave a tax-credit unit when I became a full-time student… and I had to submit yearly my income…

    3. Easy fix, bracket and asdf. Create affordibility using a reasonable tax on profits from real estate speculation to hire people at decent wages, benefits, and union representation to repair decades of deferred maintenance on Seattle’s whole infrastructure.

      Will definitely put a hole in City, County, and Federal budgets when I-5 between Dearborn and the Ship Canal relocates to Eastlake and everything aligned with it. From “feel” of some of the trains and tracks I’ve ridden this last while, ST could create some mutual benefit too.

      One measure to emphasize we’re not talking about make-work or charity: Don’t call it a tax. Like for electricity, sanitation, and everything else necessary to both public and private well-being…Call it a bill.

      Mark Dublin

    4. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. So even in cases where tenants start making more money and can afford market rate rents, they get to keep living in subsidized housing.

      Agencies have come up with a variety of plausible-sounding excuses as to why they allow this, but the real but unspoken reason is that the poverty industrial complex is big business, and scarcity of units = continued growth and expansion.

      1. Sam, for accuracy and fairness, how does KOMO coverage on this one compare with The Seattle Times on transit?


      2. This is the Seattle Housing Authority we’re dealing with, not HUD. And if it’s run by a nonprofit, I’m not sure how much SHA is involved. And how is $1574 affordable? That’s close to market rate around here. I think the article is cherry-picking a few unusual cases.

        Also, please include an “($)” next to sites that have a limited number of free reads.

      3. From the KOMO article:

        In its official response to the OIG audit, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Milan M. Ozdinec said there are “serious flaws” in the audit’s methodology. For example, HUD says the over-income families pay higher rent as their incomes rise so that, in total, they reduce HUD costs by $116.5 million annually — money that funds other housing.

        “Absolutely,” said Seattle Housing Authority spokesperson Kerry Coughlin. “And so then they’re not being subsidized, by the taxpayers, in any way.” They are, in essence, paying market rate.

        Post says: “The over-income tenants represent 2.6 percent of the system.”

        From a quick glance at the overincome vs. waiting table, I estimate there are somewhere on the order of 50x as many people on the waiting list as there are overincome families in public housing.

        The problem here is that there isn’t enough supply to meet the demand, not that some richies are benefiting off our tax dollars.

  2. I’m pretty sure it’s a Walgreens and not a Rite Aid at Pine and Broadway unless it just changed hands.

  3. I have friends who lived in the low income housing. Annually they had to submit their earnings, and when raises/promotions occurred, they moved on.

    1. Which also has unintended consequences. If you’re income is right under the cutoff, and your boss offers you a small raise that would put you right over, you have to decline the raise to avoid losing your home.

      1. I’ve known people living in units where they had to be below a certain income to move in. I’m pretty sure it was private apartments with a tax break. When they earned too much, their rent went up significantly.

  4. Well, at least the Washington Post was honest enough to lead off the article as follows:

    “Editor’s note: The Post has learned that this article contained three paragraphs with sentences that were largely duplicated, without attribution, from a story on the Government Executive website. It is the Post’s policy that the use of material from other news organizations or sources must be properly attributed.”

    And how many cases are we talking about? Well, in any case, I just gave everybody the solution. We’ve got thousands of jobs’ worth of work to be filled, and enough money that the freeway incident I mentioned could easily be caused by when next fish truck that overturns at rush hour has a Brinks’ truck full of money slide into it and go over on its side.

    So call it a combination earthquake and monetary waste control measure to do affordability my way. And finally, long overdue elimination of major piece of freeloading. The higher the wages- the more taxes these ex-slackers will finally have to pay. B

    et The Wall Street Journal will beat The Post out here to cover the story. And tax revenue generated will make The Seattle Times pull a hundred reporters out of homeless camps to cover the gold mine of malfeasance that will suddenly have become possible.


  5. Besides subsidized housing there is a lot of subsidized transpo going on in the area.
    Yesterday I took a ride through the districts on the FHSC. Though highly subsidized it was good to see the seniors have a nice and convenient mode of transpo..

    It’s interesting to see the differences in modes and what we’re willing to pay to make transpo convenient for people given their different circumstances. Here is a breakdown of city wide averages for cost per boarding:

    Metro buses $5.00.
    Link $4.00
    *FHSC 4.60 currently
    *FHSC-CCC 3.00
    Sounder 12.00 (Taxes are paying $350.00/mo to move these folks around. Move to city bums)
    ST Express 7.00

    * Based on the following criteria:
    Tacoma Streetcar $4.60
    Portland Max/streetcar combined is $3.00 from which I was able to extrapolate a cost of $3.50 for the
    CCC will bring down FHSC below Portland levels given near double the ridership

    1. Very little transportation isn’t subsidized. There’s a reason they are called “freeways”.

    1. Because getting actual housing support to marginalized people out of the legislature is impossible in a state that largely hates poor people and minorities, even if half of them cloak it in Libertarian rhetoric and pat themselves on the back for being so fair.

      1. I agree wit your sentiments but ST’s expertise isn’t in affordable housing so why add that burden to the pressure of building out their transit network? It becomes a competing interest of resources within.

    2. Because of a state law that requires ST to offer surplus land first to those who can build affordable housing. Also because housing is our state’s biggest crisis so we need to pursue an every-option approach..

    3. ST is building public transit, not trains for rich people. If low-income people cannot afford to live near Link (or at least take a bus to transfer to Link), then it isn’t open to them even if they could pay the fare.

      1. All very true and I am all in on affordable housing as well as sustainable growth etc. I also aware of the 2015 legislation and the recent ST Board police action. my question remains unanswered – why is ST in the business of affordable housing? Funds raised were raised under the transit banner. They weren’t raised under transit and housing. My fear is it’s diluting the transit focus. Why can’t the housing experts take leadership and collaborate with ST. ST already has its plate full trying to navigate thru the various jurisdictions to build the transportation network on a timely fashion. Why complicate thing. They should do what they are good at.

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