Seattle Housing Authority is revitalizing public housing in a number of ways. In all of its redevelopment projects, the agency is committed to maintaining an equal or greater number of housing units for very low-income residents in Seattle.
In communities such as High Point, Rainier Vista, NewHolly and Westwood, revitalization has meant large scale redevelopment to replace worn out housing with new housing. For the agency's Scattered Sites portfolio, it means selling some units and replacing them with others in better locations and with configurations allowing for more efficient management.
21 public housing units at Yesler Terrace were removed to make way for a new community center. These have been replaced nearby.
In some cases, revitalization efforts mean a decrease in the number of public housing units in the communities traditionally owned and managed by Seattle Housing Authority. However, even though there will be fewer units of housing for extremely low-income residents in specific communities, the overall number of units throughout the city will be maintained.
Seattle Housing Authority has an absolute commitment to one-for-one replacement of all housing lost through revitalization. Replacement housing will continue to be affordable to Seattle's most impoverished residents—those with incomes at 30 percent or below the area median income.
Replacement housing must meet four criteria:
- It must consist of specific, identifiable housing units. Replacement housing does not include Housing Choice Vouchers that households may use to rent in the private housing market.
- It must be affordable to extremely low-income residents— those earning less than 30 percent of the area median income.
- It must be guaranteed to be available to extremely low-income tenants well into the future. This is generally at least 40 years.
- The household's portion of rent and utility payments must be no more than 30 percent of their income.
Replacement housing is not always the same as traditionally-defined public housing.
For example, some replacement housing is owned and managed by non-profit organizations with subsidies provided by the housing authority. Capital or operating subsidy that allows rents to be kept affordable for extremely low-income households may come from the federal public housing program or it may come from other federal housing programs.
Housing providers serving extremely low-income households, including Seattle Housing Authority, need financial help because the rents these households can afford will not cover the cost of constructing or acquiring, and managing and maintaining the replacement housing.
Seattle Housing Authority uses a variety of methods to finance and sustain replacement housing. This includes traditional public housing, funded by the federal government, which provides on-going capital and operating subsidy.
In addition, construction funding may be provided by grants under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOPE VI program. Acquisition funding may come from bonds.
In other cases, Seattle Housing Authority:
- Contributes funds to assist with construction costs of some partnership projects, so that development partners do not have to borrow as much money. With less to be repaid, lower rents can be charged.
- Assigns Housing Choice Vouchers to some units within partnership buildings to make the units affordable to extremely low-income residents.
- Provides Housing Authority land to partners at below-market or no cost, enabling them to finance projects or obtain grant funds that would not otherwise come to Seattle.
- Purchases housing with bonds and assigns Housing Choice Vouchers to those units, or obtains HUD approval to convert the newly-purchased units to public housing.
Replacement housing has been required for six Seattle Housing Authority redevelopment projects: