Built in the 1940s to house defense workers, the wood frame buildings of the old Rainier Vista were designated as public housing by the Lanham Act in the early 1950s.
They housed returning veterans and low-income families for five decades, but as years of use and weathering took their toll, the units at Rainier Vista became expensive to maintain and less effective as public housing.
Reconnecting with South Seattle
The HOPE VI grant that made redevelopment possible was designed to reconnect the distressed Rainier Vista neighborhood back into the surrounding community.
New Urbanist planning and design principles were put to use at Rainier Vista, with housing designed to bring together the neighborhood's diverse mixture of residents. Its narrow streets slow traffic, while front porches located close to the street give residents a chance to interact. Low fences around private back yards give households a sense of security and ownership of their own space, but still allow for visibility and conversation with neighbors.
Developing neighborhood amenities
Housing at Rainier Vista is located close to a number of large and small parks, playgrounds, and community gardens that create open space for residents to get outside, meet their neighbors, and play with their children.
It is also within walking distance of the amenities of the Columbia City business district, featuring a mix of retail shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. For detailed information follow this link:
Residents also have access to Neighborhood House’s Rainier Vista Center, offering services for low-income residents to help them gain the skills necessary to move toward self-sufficiency. It has job programs, case management services, a computer lab, a Head Start program, and other services in addition to community gathering space. The Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club offers a wide range of programs and activities as well.
The LINK Light Rail service started in the summer of 2009 and serves Rainier Vista at the Columbia City station. This transportation option gives residents more convenient access to the Rainier Valley, downtown Seattle, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Creating a livable mixed-income community
Redevelopment at Rainier Vista has resulted in a mixed-income community, with low-income rentals, market rate rentals, and privately-owned homes. When completed, around 895 units of housing will be available.
By returning land to private ownership, several goals have been accomplished. First, proceeds from the land and home sales have helped fund low-income housing in the neighborhood and elsewhere. Second, the land is returned to the city’s property tax rolls, where it can generate revenues to help keep the neighborhood economically self-sufficient. Finally, it means that new in-city homes have been made available at reasonable prices for Seattle residents in a completely revitalized neighborhood.
The redeveloped Rainier Vista now includes units for residents with extremely low incomes (30 percent of area median income or below) and low incomes (80 percent or below), in addition to market-rate for-sale housing:
|Housing type||Income Category||Units|
|Public housing||Extremely low income||251|
|Senior housing||Extremely low income||78|
|Disabled rental housing||Extremely low income||22|
|Affordable rental housing||Extremely low and low income||226|
|Rental housing||Any income level||48|
|Affordable for-sale housing||Low income||59|
|For-sale housing||Any income level||211|
|Units of on-site housing built or in the planning stage||895|
In addition to increased construction costs, development conditions encountered in all have contributed to the challenge of completing Rainier Vista. Zoning interpretations and the discovery of wetland areas on both the west and east phases resulted in fewer for-sale home sites. When complete, the mix of housing at Rainier Vista will total approximately 895 units.
More than $240 million has been invested in Rainier Vista. This money went towards the construction of rental and for-sale housing, a complete updated infrastructure, the creation of parks, open spaces, and public art, and important community resources like the Boys & Girls Club and Neighborhood House Rainier Vista Center:
|HOPE VI grant||$35,000,000|
|Other public funding||$22,000,000|
|Tax-credit partnership equity||$18,000,000|
1999 — The Rainier Vista community is awarded $35 million in HOPE VI funding for redevelopment.
2000 — Relocation counseling and assistance for nearly 500 Rainier Vista households begins.
2003 — The City Council approves Rainier Vista's Master Plan. Demolition of old public housing units starts.
2004 — The construction of new infrastructure and rental housing for Phase I begins.
2005 — Families begin returning to new Phase I public housing units. For-sale home construction begins.
2006 — Families move into Phase I for-sale homes. Demolition of units in Phase II continues.
2007 — Phase II Infrastructure begins on the Right of Way Improvements along South Oregon Street and Renton Ave S.
2008 — The new Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club opened in the fall. Construction on Phase II infrastructure was completed.
2009 — Link light rail service begins, giving Rainier Vista a convenient connection to Downtown Seattle. Construction began on Tamarack Place, located on MLK, Jr. Way South between South Oregon and South Alaska Streets. Tamarack Place includes 83 affordable rental housing units, 3 Live-Work units and 10,000 square feet comprised of several diverse retailers.
2010 — Construction of Tamarack Place continues. Construction on infrastructure for Phase III begins.
2011 — Construction on infrastructure for Phase III continues and completes. Construction of Rainier Vista Rental Housing begins.
2012 — Construction of all 118 rental units of Rainier Vista Rental Housing is completed.
Citizen Review Committee
In December 2002, Seattle Housing Authority agreed to establish a Citizen Review Committee to review and make recommendations on significant changes requested by the agency or any contractor to development or project plans. They are charged with reviewing and making recommendations on land sales, development plans, construction impacts and community notification.
The committee includes: Regan Pelton (Friends of Rainier Vista), John Wimbush (ACORN), Earl Richardson (Southeast Effective Development), Someireh Amirfaiz (Refugee Women's Alliance), Denise Harnly (Seattle Neighborhood Group), Doug Wheeler (Zion Prep Academy), Sara Lewontin (Housing Resources Group), Mark Okazaki (Neighborhood House), Diane Groeschell (Providence Health & Services). Members are updated quarterly on current issues regarding Redevelopment Activities
Memorandum of Agreement
In 2001, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a Memorandum of Agreement with Seattle Housing Authority. The agreement governs Rainier Vista redevelopment and provides assurance to neighborhood groups and advocates about replacement housing and related issues. It includes the following provisions:
- On-site density is limited to 1,010 units.
- 100 percent of the 481 existing public housing units at Rainier Vista will be replaced with units available to households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.
- Up to 71 of the replacement units may be built off-site and may be built in partnership with other nonprofits. These organizations may apply for up to $2.5 million in City funds to help fund their development.
- More two-bedroom apartments have been added and the number of one- bedroom apartments has been limited.
- Up to $2.4 million from City funds may be available as down payment assistance for the 200 affordable for-sale units.
- Many site design issues will be addressed through the usual city processes.
- Sustainable building practices will be employed.
- Seattle Housing Authority will attempt to meet affirmative action goals.