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August 2016

$87 million earmarked for workforce housing near transit centers in King county

More than 1,000 homes near transit centers are expected to be created in King County thanks to landmark legislation authorizing the investment of $87 million in bonds for affordable workforce housing. County officials said up to $15 million from the pool of funds will be awarded this year as part of the county's annual Housing Request for Proposals. (Editor's note: The RFPs were expected to be posted by early August.)

Builders whose projects are within a half mile of existing and future bus and rail transit stops seek funds, which covers both new construction and preservation of existing housing. Funding will come from a portion of King County's hotel/motel tax revenue now used to pay the debt on CenturyLink Field.

Council members approved a measure in July to accept a Transit-Oriented Development Bond Allocation Plan proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine. The investment nearly doubles the $48 million first proposed for the program.

"This is an incredibly robust and intentional plan that will allow the County to address the urgency and scale of today's crisis and strategically invest in creating equitable communities for years to come," said Kelly Rider, Director, Government Relations & Policy at the Housing Development Consortium Seattle - King County. "By providing affordable homes near transit, this Plan will cut household expenses for low-income people, reduce traffic congestion, and ensure families can spend more time together rather than stuck in traffic."

The projects include:

  • Countywide: $32.3 million for projects with nonprofits and partner agencies
  • I-90 Corridor: $10 million for projects near transit stations along the I-90 Corridor between Issaquah and North Bend
  • Northgate: $10 million for a project or projects at the Northgate Transit Center
  • South County: $10 million for projects near the Des Moines or Federal Way transit stations
  • Eastside: $10 million for projects near Bel-Red Corridor transit stations
  • Seattle South Downtown: $14.7 million total, of which $8.7 million would be dedicated to the Historic South Downtown Public Development Authority, $3 million for the Pacific Tower affordable housing project, and $3 million for affordable housing near Othello Station.

The program builds upon the Transit Station Housing and Development Initiative launched by the Executive in September following passage of the Workforce Housing Bill by state legislators earlier last year.

That measure gives King County the ability to issue bonds backed by revenues from a portion of the hotel/motel tax that will become available in 2021 when the stadium debt is scheduled to be paid off. Until then, including this year, nonprofit affordable housing builders and private developers can start using some of the future revenues. The county will essentially borrow from itself now and pay itself back later.

At a signing ceremony with housing advocates and council members, County Executive Constantine called the legislation "an innovative approach to connect more communities across King County to jobs and opportunity."

"Creating and supporting diverse, vibrant, mixed-income communities served by high-capacity transit is an important step in addressing our affordable housing crisis," said King County Council Chair Joe McDermott. "I am pleased to act fast, making it possible to build new projects before land in transit corridors get even more expensive."

Rents in the metro region have been rising 7 percent annually since 2009, according to Apartment Insights of Seattle. Their data show average rents range from around $1,100 in SeaTac to nearly $2,350 in downtown Seattle.