South Seattle apartment block secures money to stay affordable

An apartment building in South Seattle will remain affordable for decades to come after a successful community fundraising effort.

The nonprofit that is buying Arches Apartments on Rainier Avenue South says it has secured funds to keep rents below market rates. Among the donations: $2 million grant from Amazon.

Arches Apartments went on the market for sale this spring following the death of the building’s longtime owner. Residents who have relied on below-market apartment rents fear that the new owner will raise prices, forcing them out of their area. A local nonprofit raced to raise funds to purchase the building. The Southeast Seattle Senior Foundation took out a short-term loan to buy, but still needed to raise enough down payment to keep monthly loan payments low and avoid rents rising.

“The drug is safe and affordable,” CEO Curtis Brown has now said.

Brown said the fundraising effort raised nearly $400,000 in donations from members of the public, the Norcliffe Foundation, the Windermere Foundation, First Security Bank, two real estate agents who represented the Southeast Seattle Senior Foundation and others.

An Amazon spokesperson said I learned about these efforts from an article in the Seattle Times in May. The company’s $2 million donation is part of the $2 billion Housing Equity Fund, which provides loans and grants for projects in areas around Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Nashville.

The grant “reflects our long-standing commitment to helping address the housing crisis in the Puget Sound region,” Catherine Boyle, director of the Amazon Housing Fund, said in a statement.

During Amazon’s explosive growth in Seattle, residents, activists and local elected officials criticized the company for helping it raise housing costs through an influx of high-paying jobs and resisting some of the city’s tax efforts. “This is the partnership our office hopes to see more of with Amazon,” Seattle City Council member Tammy Morales, who represents South Seattle, said in a statement.

The nonprofit’s agreement with Amazon requires the units to remain affordable for 99 years, some people making 60% of the median income in the area or less ($69,900 for a family of three) and some for those making 80% of the Median income in the region ($85,800 for a family of three). Brown said rent increases would not exceed 3% per year.

The group is now turning its attention to other plans in the neighborhood, including hopes for an affordable apartment project to allow homeownership.

“This is not the end,” Brown said. “This is the beginning of a long project.”

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