According to Ryan Donohue, there is only one way to solve the shortage of affordable homes in Washington: widescale zoning reform that legalizes multifamily housing without onerous parking mandates, and an influx of public funding to match.
“If we don’t solve both of these problems, we will never be able to solve the housing crisis,” explained Donohue, the Chief Advocacy Officer for Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties (“Habitat SKKC”), Washington’s largest Habitat for Humanity chapter.
All across Washington state, people need more homes of all kinds. One million more, the Department of Commerce estimated, by 2044. But local exclusionary zoning laws adopted by city and county governments between 1920 and 1980 have restricted homebuilders’ ability to meet demand. Bans on apartment buildings, townhomes, and duplexes, combined with costly parking mandates, have contributed to Washington having the fifth worst undersupply of housing in the United States.
Rain did nothing to dampen the joy on Saturday, March 4, when 11 families received the keys to their new homes in Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County’s new Capitol View Community, its first mid-rise building of affordable housing unites completed in Seattle. The Dedication, covered by three of Seattle’s TV news stations (KIRO7, KOMO4 and KING5), paid tribute to former president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn for making Habitat for Humanity a household name synonymous with affordable housing for all.
As Carter (98) spends his final days in hospice at home, Habitat SKKC’s CEO Brett D’Antonio declared that every Habitat home constructed in Seattle is done so with the Carter spirit built in. The spirit of Saturday’s Dedication was that of total joy as new homeowners accepted their keys, got to know their neighbors, and cut the red ribbon that marked the building’s official opening.
The Capital View building provides 13 new homes on a small footprint, using already improved land and sustainable materials. In fact, the development earned a four-star Built Green certification by using locally sourced materials with recycled content, low VOC interior paints and flooring, and by focusing on energy efficiency. The homes are close to transit, within walking distance of shops and schools.
Eleven of the 13 homes are already sold to community members earning less than 80% of the area’s Average Median Income (AMI). Five of the new homes were specifically earmarked for people of color, in keeping with Habitat’s commitment to support minority homeownership in King and Kittitas Counties.
New homeowner and speaker at the event Amber Cortes exuded excitement as she thanked Habitat saying, “It really does take a village to build a home.” She referred to the Habitat process that partners with potential homeowners in constructing new affordable housing by counting their sweat equity contributions as part of their purchase price. It’s a system that has worked to make Habitat for Humanity one of the most successful and revered non-profit organizations in the world.
The Capitol View Community is the first in Habitat SKC’s plans to address Seattle’s extreme housing crisis by ‘building up.’ One similar condo project called Olympic Ridge is already under construction nearby along with a much larger condominium development to begin construction very soon on MLK Blvd which will offer 58 permanently affordable condo units.
CEO Brett D’Antonio credited recently enacted housing density legislation for making the Capitol Hill project possible, “Density flexibility allows Habitat to provide these permanently affordable condominium homes that can begin to mitigate the impact of inflated construction costs, spikes in home prices, and gentrification.”
City elected officials, including Deputy Mayor Gary Wong, Deputy Director Seattle Office of Housing Andrea Akita, joined the jubilant celebration while Homeowner Services Director Ali Sheibani and Program Coordinator Nat Tavarez introduced the new Homeowners and presented them with the keys and a housewarming gift.
Check out photos from the event on our Flickr page here. To watch some of the local news coverage click KING5 and KIRO.
Habitat for Humanity has brought its philosophies around equality — and sweat equity — in home ownership to 11th Ave E between Harrison and Republican on Capitol Hill.
Over the weekend, it celebrated the completion of the Capitol View Community building along with the new condo owners who will call the development home.
“My best friend used to live down the street from here near the park,” new owner Amber Cortes said at Saturday’s ceremony. “And she said when she first lived here 10 years ago, there were all sorts of people in the building — an opera singer, a landscaper, a pastry chef. And over the years, rent went up, housing cost went up, and people started moving out.”
For Amber Cortes, the chance to own her own home is a game-changer.
She is one of 13 new homeowners making 80% or less of the area median income that will live in a new building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood constructed by Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King and Kittitas Counties.
“Habitat helped us; we will be helping others; Habitat is helped by you,” said Cortes. “We all have to be in this together for everybody to have a seat at the table and a home of their own.”