Uche Okezie, Senior Project Manager
— White Center
It’s no secret: The housing market in metropolitan Seattle faces a housing affordability crisis. With the median-priced house in King County now selling for $460,000, purchasing a new home is out of reach for many hard-working families with modest incomes. But an initiative in White Center’s Greenbridge community has been helping exactly this group of first-time homebuyers.
As a result of an innovative partnership between King County, King County Housing Authority and HomeSight, first-time homebuyers with annual incomes below $64,000 have been able to purchase new, energy-efficient three- and four-bedroom homes. Priced below $300,000, 15 new single-family houses have been developed through the partnership. Thirteen have already been sold; the remaining two are expected to close shortly. Homebuyers reflect the broad diversity of the White Center community with many households from Southeast Asia, Central and East Africa, and Latin America.
The initiative combines below-market construction loans by the Housing Authority, HomeSight’s experience in counseling first-time homebuyers, and down payment assistance from King County and a number of other sources.
“In the aftermath of the housing and financial crises, home ownership has become even more elusive for hard-working families of modest means,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority. “In addition to surging prices, a major barrier is the high down payment requirement we are currently seeing from many banks. Under Executive Constantine’s leadership, King County has stepped to the plate, providing funding for down payment assistance for first-time buyers, enabling them to start developing a stake in their community. This program complements market-rate homeownership efforts currently proceeding quickly at Greenbridge.”
"Since moving here my family feels more stable and secure. The neighborhood is a nice quiet and safe place for my family. My kids enjoy living in a place where schools, parks, library, and transportation are close and easy to access,” said Anmar Khudir, who recently bought a new home at Greenbridge. “At the same time, I feel that I can achieve something valuable to my family and kids that will contribute to their success and stability. For what we have been paying in rent, we are now able to pay a mortgage and the homeowners association dues, while building equity and future financial security.”
Funding from King County comprises the bulk of down payment assistance, with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, the Washington State Housing Trust Fund and Parkview Services providing additional funding. Assistance is provided through 30-year deferred loans.
The Housing Authority provided $1.2 million in low-interest construction lending and technical assistance in designing and developing the homes. The housing is sited as part of the mixed-income Greenbridge community being developed by the Authority, which will have a total of over 900 apartments and homes once buildout is complete. The first seven homes (The Terrace at Greenbridge) were built by Peter Davis Builders. In 2014, BDR Renewal built the next set of eight homes called Greenbridge Creek.
HomeSight worked closely with the Housing Authority and the County, overseeing construction, marketing the homes and providing comprehensive homebuyer education and financial counseling services to assist families throughout the challenging process of buying a home.
“As this partnership demonstrates, there are many qualified first-time homebuyers who, in order to realize their dream and enjoy the benefits of home ownership, need down payment assistance,” said Tony To, executive director of HomeSight. “The Housing Authority and the County’s vision have been essential to the success of this program. The down payment assistance was the missing piece and the County’s support made this project a reality. Fifteen families now have a chance to build equity while living in a vibrant community conveniently located near major job centers, and with wonderful recreational, educational and social opportunities.”
“Communities are more vibrant and resilient when they have diverse housing options,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This first-time homebuyer program will help keep working families at home in our region even as housing prices rise.”
KCHA and HomeSight are planning to develop six additional homes for first-time homebuyers in 2015.
KCHA, an independent municipal corporation established under state law, assists more than 18,000 households in the Seattle metropolitan region on a daily basis. The Authority administers rental housing assistance, develops and manages affordable housing and works closely with community stakeholders to address local priorities such as ending homelessness, improving educational outcomes for the region’s low-income youth and assuring that disabled and elderly households can live with dignity.
HomeSight is a full-service, nonprofit real estate developer and mortgage lender serving King County, Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Since 1990, HomeSight has created more than 1,700 first-time homeowners.
Photo by William Wright Photography. Photo of previously built HomeSight homes at Greenbridge.