On May 7, 2018, Seattle, Washington Mayor Jenny A. Durkan took another bold step to empower community efforts to reduce the displacement being caused by widespread neighborhood revitalization.
To build a more affordable future for Southeast Seattle, she—along with the Seattle Office of Housing—announced that the City is awarding $4.92 million to support a redevelopment project that will create the first City-funded housing cooperative at Othello Square.
“We are thrilled the City is funding this Co-op model of home ownership, a critical component of the vision for Othello Square,” said Tony To, HomeSight Director Emeritus and Othello Square Project Director. “The Square is led by and representative of the diverse and international nature of Southeast Seattle. Here residents of the Co-op and other on-site market and affordable homes, as well as the greater community, will be able to access education, jobs and local business opportunities.”
This vacant lot at S. Othello St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. has long been viewed as an opportunity to create a campus that reflects the community’s values and addresses their stated needs. It will include 68 permanently affordable one-, two- and three-bedroom homes. These affordable homes will allow buyers a way to both build wealth and stay in Seattle.
“Seattle’s Office of Economic Development is proud to partner on the Othello Square and HomeSight Opportunity Center,” said Bobby Lee, Director of the Seattle Office of Economic Development. “It will expand economic opportunity for multicultural communities in Southeast Seattle. This includes living wage jobs, support for entrepreneurs, education and training, and cultural space that is rooted in community. These investments and the City’s continued partnerships are essential to fully realize the community’s vision.”
Othello Square is a multi-strategy, community supported neighborhood “gateway center” designed to address displacement of both residents and businesses in Southeast Seattle adjacent to the Othello Light Rail Station. Othello Square will include a HomeSight Opportunity Center with post-secondary education, job services, small business assistance, affordable commercial space, as well as additional market rate and affordable homes.
“This investment through the Limited Equity Co-op model by the Office of Housing opens up homeownership opportunities for a wider range of Seattle residents,” said Jennifer LaBrecque, Acting Manager of Policy and Equitable Development for the Seattle Office of Housing. “Community ownership provides us with another tool to provide long-term, sustainable affordability and address displacement of long-time residents.”
The Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy (RVLA) High School will also be part of the Othello Square Campus. Homebuyers must meet income limits and earn 80 percent of the Area Median Income or below, $80,250 for a family or four, in order to purchase a home.
“This development is proof of what can happen when community comes together and is empowered to imagine a better Seattle. We must continue to act urgently to protect against gentrification and displacement and make it possible for families and businesses to stay in Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan.
“As Seattle has grown, we have seen far too many communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, pushed out of their homes. With our investment in Othello Square, we are helping ensure families and small business owners can stay in their neighborhoods and have more access to true economic opportunity,” she added.
These Office of Housing-funded homes will help first-time homebuyers build equity and stability through the Limited Equity Co-op model where each resident owns a share of the housing. To ensure these homes remain affordable, re-sale prices are restricted so that future low-income homebuyers have access to the same opportunity to build equity.
“I am proud we are making this continued investment and standing by our commitment for this one of a kind center in Southeast Seattle that will provide a pathway to economic opportunity,” said Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle). “From the very beginning of this project’s vision, it has been a collaborative partnership with residents, business owners, community groups, education organizations, and HomeSight to make this a reality.”
“I am delighted to see the City make an investment in the limited equity cooperative model, providing residents the opportunity to own and manage where they live,” said Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle). “Seattleites who might otherwise be priced out of our hot housing market will now have an opportunity to build equity and take an active part in how their community is shaped.”
Rendering of Building C at Othello Square courtesy of City of Seattle.