In an effort to preserve housing affordability in response to the region’s meteoric rise in rents, the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) has purchased two apartment communities adjacent to the Tukwila light rail station. The acquisitions− The Villages at South Station in Tukwila and the Corinthian Apartments in SeaTac – total 286 units. Access to affordable housing near transit stations is a key state, county and local priority. KCHA has made Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), especially the preservation of existing affordable housing along transit corridors, a central component of its real estate acquisition and development strategy. KCHA has committed to developing or preserving at least 800 units of affordable housing in suburban King County over the next five years.
“As rents in the region continue to rise, lower- and moderate-wage working families are increasingly being priced out of housing with easy access to mass transit. Purchasing existing housing along emerging transit corridors is the most cost-effective way of ensuring that these families have continued access to light rail, providing connections to healthcare, education and employment opportunities, and reduced commuting costs,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority. “These acquisitions support our region’s ambitious goals designed to provide adequate transportation capacity and housing affordability in the face of accelerating population growth.”
State and local policy makers are advancing new land use and financing strategies to support housing affordability linked to mass transit access. House Bill 1223, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year, authorized King County to issue up to $45 million in bonds backed by local hotel-motel tax revenues to develop or preserve affordable workforce housing along transit corridors. The County intends to use these funds in coordination with an $18 million revolving loan to support mixed-income, mixed-use TOD development. The expansion of the region’s light rail, now scheduled by state legislators to go to the voters, also includes funding for the creation of workforce housing near light rail stations. Most cities in the region, including SeaTac and Tukwila, have signed the Growing Transit Communities Regional Compact, committing their support for a variety of strategies to promote equitable development around transit stations, including the “use of a full range of housing preservation tools to maintain the existing level of affordable housing within each transit community.”
“Ensuring affordability near the Tukwila light rail station shows that the King County Housing Authority shares my commitment to creating vibrant, mixed-income neighborhoods around transit centers,” said King County Executive and Sound Transit Chair Dow Constantine, who recently announced an initiative for better station area development. “By combining resources, we can create communities where families of all incomes can access fast, frequent, reliable transit to our region’s job and education centers.”
The Villages at South Station
The Villages at South Station is located directly east of the Tukwila light rail station and provides 191 apartments.
“Given its proximity to the rail station, growing demand for housing within transit corridors, and the general tightness of the rental market in the area, I’m pleased that the King County Housing Authority has acted to preserve the long-term affordability of this apartment complex,” said Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton. “KCHA’s management experience and track record ensures that The Villages will be a well-run community. By keeping rents affordable, this acquisition helps the city of Tukwila attract the workforce it needs. This is a strategic investment that protects affordability and mass transit.”
The Villages features 40 studio apartments, 62 one bedroom units, 81 two-bedroom units, and eight three-bedroom units. Rents generally range from $900 to $1,500, depending on the size of the unit.
KCHA’s acquisition will ensure that rents in at least 50 percent of the units will remain affordable to families at or below 80 percent of the area median (or $65,800 for a family of four). Had the housing authority not purchased the complex, rents at the property would likely have increased by double digits as rental markets, particularly around transit stations, tighten.
The property was acquired with a short-term loan from KeyBank and KCHA is partnering with King County to develop a long-term financing structure that will ensure continued affordability. The Villages is managed by Madrona Ridge Residential.
The Corinthian Apartments
The 95-unit Corinthian Apartments is located directly west of the Tukwila light rail station. The complex is part of the city of SeaTac’s South 154th Street Station Area, a district where the city envisions future growth that provides for both new residential and mixed-use developments and the preservation of existing affordable housing. “Rents in the 154th Street Station Area have begun to increase,” said SeaTac Mayor Mia Gregerson. “The Corinthian is located in an excellent area – just steps away from light rail and Rapid Ride bus service with direct access to major employment centers like the airport and downtown Seattle. The city of SeaTac is delighted that the King County Housing Authority is helping fulfill our vision for this emerging transit-oriented neighborhood. By preserving affordable rents and making significant capital investment at the Corinthian, the Housing Authority helps solidify two vital community attributes – quality affordable housing and the means to commute to good jobs – both of which are at the heart of keeping SeaTac a vibrant community.”
Built in 1968, the Corinthian consists of 14 studios, 55 one-bedroom units, and 26 two-bedroom units. Rents at the Corinthian range from $825 to $1,150, meaning they are affordable to households earning around 60 percent of the area median, or $53,700 for a family of four. The Authority plans to do a modest rehab of the complex including energy-efficiency upgrades, replacement of decks, fire alarm, electrical and lighting improvements, and unit interior upgrades.
KCHA acquired the property with a short-term loan from KeyBank and, in partnership with the County, will use a combination of financing tools which may include tax-exempt bond financing and low-income housing tax credits to support acquisitions and planned upgrades.
KCHA, an independent municipal corporation established under state law, provides stable, affordable housing to over 18,000 households in King County on a daily basis. The Authority administers a variety of programs that range from federally assisted subsidized housing to moderate-income housing operated without federal subsidies. KCHA is committed to working with local communities 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.