Housing cohort tackles preservation, affordability

Yesler Community Collaborative’s Housing Cohort has brought together people in leadership from key organizations working to develop and preserve affordable housing in the neighborhoods including and surrounding Yesler Terrace. Member organizations include Capitol Hill Housing, Seattle Chinatown-International District PDA, InterIm Community Development Association, Enterprise Community Partners, Centerstone, Black Community Impact Alliance, Seattle University and Seattle Housing Authority.

With a $100,000 grant from Enterprise Community Partners, a sub-group of Cohort members is taking on the challenge of preserving affordable housing in these important Seattle neighborhoods.

According to MA Leonard, Vice President for Enterprise in the Pacific Northwest, “The Crescent around Yesler Terrace – stretching from the Capitol Hill TOD station to Pioneer Square is a community that is high in opportunity, and very much at risk of losing housing for lower income residents who cannot afford to commute long distances to get to work. We invested in the capacity of the Community Development Corporations who are members of the YCC Housing Cohort – SCIDpda, Capitol Hill Housing and InterIm – because of their mission to preserve affordability. They also bring the ability to leverage real estate investment to make sure lower income residents – both current and future – can live in the neighborhood.”

Using maps and data available on line, staff of Capitol Hill Housing identified numerous sites that could represent opportunities for housing preservation or new affordable housing development. Staff members are now going through the list to narrow it to the likeliest candidates. They have also worked with development finance consultant Heartland to test financing approaches for both preservation and new construction that do not require deep public subsidy yet result in long-term affordable units.

Cohort members are excited at the possibilities of seeing parcels that might otherwise fall to new development preserved as affordable housing for current neighborhood residents. According to SCIDpda Executive Director Maiko Winkler-Chin, “The opportunity we have been presented with is to work collaboratively with others who share a set of values around the importance of place, of preserving neighborhoods that have special meaning for us because these places speak to our hearts. We share information, learn from each other, and are forced to stretch our minds.”

Winkler-Chin reflected further on the value of this kind of collaborative work for collective impact, “Working with the group gets me personally out of the day-to-day and moves my brain to a strategic level to remember why we do this work. It is inspiring, energizing, and keeps me going.”

Winkler-Chin summed up the hopes of fellow cohort members succinctly: “What I hope to see come out of this work is secured assets for community control, new ways of doing the work, and new partnerships that take into account different strengths and approaches.”

The Housing Cohort recently welcomed four new members – Catholic Community Services, Black Community Impact Alliance, Centerstone and Seattle University’s Faith and Homelessness Project (part of SU’s School of Theology and Ministry.) With the addition of these new members, the cohort looks forward  to broadening the effort to preserve and expand affordable housing in the Central Area.

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