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From the Boardroom: 600 new homes coming to Roosevelt, Capitol Hill, and First Hill

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Thursday was a big day for housing near transit, or what the wonks call "transit-oriented development" (TOD). The Sound Transit Board approved three motions that will bring nearly 600 new units of affordable housing to the Roosevelt, Capitol Hill and First Hill neighborhoods in Seattle.

In Roosevelt, the Board agreed to enter into negotiations with Bellwether Housing and Mercy Housing Northwest to sell or lease a parcel next to the new light rail station at 65th & Roosevelt for the construction of 245 affordable housing units. When the Northgate light rail extension opens in 2021, these new residents will enjoy 10 minute trips to downtown Seattle, or just two minutes to the University District.  All of these units will be affordable to families making 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or less, 40 percent of the units will be affordable to those making between 30-50 percent AMI, and 42 percent of the units will be family sized units of either two or three bedrooms. 

On Capitol Hill, the Board approved an agreement to facilitate a land swap with Seattle Central College that will allow the campus to expand its footprint on Sound Transit-owned land at 1827 Broadway adjacent to the west entrance to Capitol Hill Station, also known as 'Site D'. In return, Sound Transit will obtain two parcels on Broadway between Pike and Pine on the former site of the Atlas clothing store. Sound Transit will enter into negotiations with Capitol Hill Housing, who will pay the college the difference in land value between Site D and their Atlas properties and develop a mixed use project that includes 78 units of low and moderate income housing. This swap will allow more housing to be built than could have been accomplished on Site D, and allows the college to proceed with their campus expansion plans.

On First Hill, Sound Transit owns property purchased for a First Hill light rail station that was cancelled due to unstable soil conditions and construction risks. The property at Boylston Avenue and E Madison Street is unique in our portfolio because it is zoned to accommodate high-rise construction. High-rise construction is often untenable for affordable housing developers due to higher construction and land costs, but the site offers an opportunity to add a tremendous number of affordable units in a neighborhood with great access to transit. To that end, the Board approved entering into transaction negotiations to transfer the land at no cost to two nonprofit housing developers, Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group. The two developers have proposed an ambitious 13 story, 308 unit project affordable to households making between 30 and 60 percent AMI. This land subsidy will better enable the developers to realize their project concept that includes family size units and units set aside for seniors experiencing homelessness.  New residents will be connected to the regional transit system via the future Metro Rapid Ride G on Madison Street and the First Hill Streetcar.  

All of these deals were enabled by the Washington State Legislature, which gave us new tools to facilitate affordable housing in the legislation that authorized ST3. They passed the "80-80-80" rule, which compels us to offer the first right of refusal to nonprofit developers when selling property. By statute, 80 percent of the land we sell must be offered to developers willing to designate 80 percent of the units as affordable to families making 80 percent of AMI. Prior to this legislation, Sound Transit was required to get full market value for sold properties. With these new tools, we can now act on a case-by-case basis to facilitate community-centered developments with market rate housing, affordable housing and retail as appropriate.