Public Land for Public Good: Breaking Ground for Affordable Housing at Seattle Center
By Keri Williams
Photos by Earica Brown, courtesy Plymouth Housing
The problem of homelessness in the greater Seattle area has reached a crisis level in recent years, that requires ever more creative solutions. The most recent example of innovation in partnership and financing broke ground on January 16 in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood, near Seattle Center, on publicly owned land provided at nearly no cost by the city of Seattle (a $1 per year ground lease arrangement). As the cold temperatures at the ground-breaking reminded all involved, the city desperately needs “more affordable housing stock in order to bring those experiencing homelessness inside.” (Brandon Macz, Queen Anne News). Long-time Enterprise partner Plymouth Housing will build 91 homes on this land for adults transitioning from chronic homelessness.
In addition to providing nearly a hundred people new homes, the building will house a classroom and community space, along with office space for Path with Art, a non-profit organization that helps individuals recover from homelessness and addiction through art. The organization “transforms the lives of people recovering from homelessness, addiction, and other trauma by harnessing the power of creative engagement as a bridge to community and a path to stability.” Blending art space and affordable housing in an iconic area of Seattle, home of the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center, the project hits important community goals.
Dedicating underutilized public land for affordable housing is one of Enterprise’s cornerstones, which began to support projects such as this on back in 2017. In addition to awarding a predevelopment grant to Plymouth Housing, Enterprise joined forces with Heritage Bank to provide a $20.7M net equity investment through Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). “We’re proud to invest in our communities by financing stellar projects with valued partners like Enterprise and Plymouth,” said Heritage Bank Senior Vice President Randy Robinson.
“The city of Seattle is a leader in strategically utilizing publicly owned lands to provide much needed affordable housing,” said M.A. Leonard, Vice President and Pacific Northwest Market Leader at Enterprise. Senior Program Director James Madden elaborated, “every dollar [of public financing] that goes towards property acquisition is a dollar that can't be spent on the construction of a new home.” Enterprise was instrumental in helping pass House Bill 2382 (HB2382) in the Washington State Legislature to remove some of the barriers to using lands owned by municipalities and other public entities for affordable housing, and has recently invested in nearly 400 new homes in Seattle for very low and low income individuals and families, including, in addition to the Plymouth project now underway, Mercy Housing Northwest’s Mercy Magnuson Place and Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank Building.