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February 23, 2017

Survey: Seattle Housing Authority

Specialty: Providing housing and supportive services for people with low incomes

Management: Andrew J. Lofton, executive director; Anne Fiske Zuniga, deputy executive director; Stephanie Van Dyke, director of development

Founded: 1939

Headquarters: Seattle

Projects: Hoa Mai Gardens, a 111-unit low-income apartment building opening this summer at Yesler Terrace; Red Cedar, in final design, will have over 100 low-income apartments in the Yesler Terrace redevelopment

Rendering from SRG Partnership [enlarge]
SHA is developing Red Cedar, which will add over 100 low-income apartments at Yesler Terrace.

Stephanie Van Dyke, SHA’s director of development, answered questions from the DJC about the Yesler Terrace redevelopment, the housing authority’s projects, and issues in the industry.

Q: Why isn’t Yesler Terrace getting high-rise or office development?

A: Yesler has an extraordinary location and is in the early phases of transformation so it makes sense that the initial private sector investments are in the types of development that are the bread and butter of the current cycle — mid-rise apartment buildings.

We expect high-rise and office development will follow the establishment of the mid-rise market, although that may come sooner if an office user particularly values the location and wants to secure it.

Q: What development sites does SHA have on the market at Yesler Terrace?

A: SHA has had three offerings for residential property and all are either sold, under contract or in due diligence. Interest has been very high, with competition from quality developers.

SHA has high-rise commercial office development sites available in the northwest area of Yesler Terrace near Harborview Medical Center and overlooking downtown and Elliott Bay.

Q: How much has it cost to create the infrastructure and lobby for an upzone for redevelopment of Yesler Terrace?

A: SHA does not lobby. We do use a process of widespread early engagement. From the outset, SHA undertook a comprehensive approach to master planning the site in preparation for redevelopment so that the table would be set for all partners to participate in an efficient and timely way.

Our master planned community approach incorporated a rezone, planned action environmental impact statement and mitigations. This allowed SHA and our partners to plan ahead for required mitigations. SHA took on responsibility for infrastructure improvements for the entire site, eliminating the need for development partners to go through that process. The cost for the master plan community entitlements process and the new streets, sidewalks, pocket parks, pedestrian paths and utilities totals about $48 million.

Q: What real estate is SHA buying, developing or improving besides Yesler Terrace, and how much of it is low-income housing?

A: SHA only improves and develops low-income housing. However, it sells some parcels in its communities to private developers to pay for SHA’s new low-income housing.

SHA is currently evaluating development opportunities on sites in Seattle that it already owns. We are not actively seeking to buy additional property but remain open to opportunity. SHA is continually making necessary improvements to our portfolio of more than 8,000 units in 361 locations in Seattle.

Q: What are the biggest real estate-related issues facing SHA?

A: The real estate boom has driven the cost of construction to a point that makes it difficult to build new low-income housing. On the other hand, the boom is driving the value of land sales at Yesler, which are needed to fund our low-income housing construction there.

Q: What big trends or changes in rules are affecting housing authorities?

A: The most important source of funding for low-income housing construction is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. If that program is reduced or eliminated in the current effort at the federal level to make changes in tax policy, it would impact the availability of that valuable source of funding and be devastating to the ability of housing authorities and others to produce low-income housing.

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