South Seattle apartment building secures funds to stay affordable

A South Seattle apartment building will remain affordable for decades after a successful community fundraising effort.

The non-profit organization working to buy the Arches apartments on Rainier Avenue South says it secured the funds needed to keep rents below market rates. Among the donations: a $2 million grant from Amazon.

Arches Apartments went on sale this spring after the building’s longtime owner passed away. Residents who relied on below-market apartment rents feared a new landlord would raise prices, forcing them out of their neighborhood. A local non-profit organization rushed to raise funds to purchase the building. The Southeast Seattle Senior Foundation secured a short-term loan for the purchase, but still needed to raise enough down payment to keep monthly loan payments low and avoid rent hikes.

Now, “property is safe at affordable rates,” said executive director Curtis Brown.

The fundraising effort raised nearly $400,000 in donations from members of the public, the Norcliffe Foundation, the Windermere Foundation, 1st Security Bank, two real estate agents who represented the Southeast Seattle Senior Foundation and d others, Brown said.

Amazon learned of the effort from a Seattle Times article in May, a spokesperson said. The company’s $2 million donation is part of its $2 billion Housing Equity Fund, which provides loans and grants for projects in the Seattle, Washington, DC and Nashville areas.

The grant “reflects our long-term commitment to help solve the housing crisis in the Puget Sound area,” Catherine Buell, director of Amazon’s housing fund, said in a statement.

Throughout Amazon’s massive growth in Seattle, residents, activists and local elected officials have criticized the company for helping to drive up housing costs with an influx of high-paying jobs and resistance to some municipal tax efforts. “This is the partnership our office hopes to see more of with Amazon,” Seattle City Council member Tammy Morales, who represents South Seattle, said in a statement.

The nonprofit’s deal with Amazon requires units to remain affordable for 99 years, some for people earning 60% of the region’s median income or less ($69,900 for a family of three) and others for those earning 80% of the region’s median income ($85,800 for a family of three). Rent increases will not exceed 3% per year, Brown said.

The group is now turning its attention to other plans in the neighborhood, including hopes for an affordable condo project to enable homeownership.

“It’s not the end,” Brown said. “This is the start of a long project.

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