Kenmore celebrates Affordable Housing Week with success stories

The City of Kenmore and the Kenmore Bothell Interfaith Group (KBIG) partnered to host an “Affordable Housing Success Stories” panel discussion as part of Affordable Housing Week (AHW, May 15-22).

People qualify to live in affordable housing units or properties based on their income. Some units only take people who are making 30 percent or less of the area median income, and some properties allow tenants who are making a higher percentage to qualify to live there.

The panelists at the event were Beacon Development Group senior housing developer Beth Boram, MainStreet Property Group CEO Eric Campbell and Daniel Watson, deputy director for development and asset management with the King County Housing Authority (KCHA). A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH) Program Manager Arthur Sullivan served as the moderator.

“These are people who are very innovative,” Sullivan said of the panelists.

The panelists discussed a variety of solutions in providing affordable housing options to people who live in the Puget Sound region. Watson said the KCHA has put resources into acquiring apartment buildings and mobile housing parks instead of building new developments. The organization takes control of the properties and is able to keep rent flat for residents.

“We’ve been buying (apartment buildings) up over the years,” he said, estimating the KCHA is now responsible for approximately 4,000 units. “We think preservation is a strategy that needs to be embraced.”

In addition to eliminating construction costs, Watson said this method also allows his organization to avoid zoning issues that have been problematic for those seeking to build new affordable housing.

The group also discussed how collaboration is key in any affordable housing project. Boram discussed her work with Compass Housing Alliance, including one project where they purchased land from a church in South Lake Union to build housing for homeless families.

“(This project and others) took a lot of partners,” she said. “They weren’t easy.”

After the hard work put in by many, Boram said it is rewarding to see how the families living there are benefitting from the housing.

“You can tell it’s working for the families who are living there,” she said.

Boram also discussed a similar project in Shoreline that now houses families and individuals. She said about half of the tenants are veterans who were homeless.

“It took many hours of meetings and conversations to make that project work,” she said. “(Ultimately) it improved the landscape of the neighborhood … it brings cultural and economic diversity to the neighborhood.”

Campbell spoke about how public-private partnerships can be one way of building affordable housing.

“Nonprofits aren’t cash-rich,” he said. “That’s where private developers come in.”

He cited the North Creek bungalows in Bothell and Greenbrier in Woodinville as examples. The latter has 11 cottages designated as affordable housing, and Campbell said he had never seen so many applications come in for a property before.

Campbell also cited accessory dwelling units as one way of generating affordable housing and a way for homeowners to make supplemental income.

Video of the entire event and documentation of the full question-and-answer session are available at kenmorewa.gov/Affordablehousing2017.

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