OH News

September/October 2011

From the Director...


Hiring Process Underway: OH Lending Program Manager


OH's hiring process is now underway for the Lending Manager. Applications are due no later than 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011. For more information on the position, including responsibilities, requirements and how to apply, visit the OH website at www.seattle.gov/housing/jobposting.htm.


The new hire will replace Debbie Thiele who left OH for a new job in July. We are looking for a strong candidate to oversee OH's Rental Program lending functions, as well as OH's Homebuyer Program. Each year OH has $20-25 million in new funding, primarily from the Seattle Housing Levy, available for new projects. The Lending Manager is responsible for these key activities:

  • Manage OH Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) processes to identify new affordable housing projects for funding
  • Collaborate with other public and private funders to coordinate funding decisions
  • Participate on loan committees and housing policy groups with other funders
  • Collaborate on the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness goals, identifying funding priorities
  • Help develop new ways to create workforce housing especially at transit-oriented development (TOD) locations

For more information, please contact Jean Teshima, at (206) 684-0512. 

RFP: Sec. 8 Project-Based Vouchers
Free Service to Provide Real-Time Affordable Housing Vacancies
Furnace Failure? HomeWise to the Rescue
Resident Spotlight: Mary's Story
Families Transform Once Foreclosed Subdivision
Hard Hat Zone: Gossett Place
SPU Wants Your Input on Waste Management Plan
Be Here. Get There. Attendance Campaign Launched
Request for Proposals: Section 8 Project-Based Housing Choice Vouchers

On Sept. 26, OH announced on behalf of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) the availability of 50 project-based Section 8 Vouchers for the purpose of replacing affordable housing units lost through the revitalization of High Point. Eligible projects must be either existing at the time of application or already under construction, to be operational no later than Dec. 31, 2012. SHA will make awards consistent with its Housing Choice Voucher Administrative Plan, Chapter 5 selection criteria.


SHA will consider projects in this category that meet the following project criteria:

  • Serves households with incomes at or below 30% of area median income;
  • Will be operational no later than December 31, 2012; and
  • Has an inventory of housing units containing two or more bedrooms

Proposals must be submitted through email to the City of Seattle Office of Housing and the Seattle Housing Authority by 4 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2011. Application materials are available on OH's website at www.seattle.gov/housing/development/NOFA.htm.  

Free Service to Provide Listings of Real-Time Affordable Housing Vacancies
Over the past year, OH has been convening housing and service agencies, private landlords and government agencies to create a free housing locator service that will provide information about real-time vacancies in rental housing. Currently under development, we expect the service to launch in early 2012.


This new service, free for both renters and landlords, will include properties in Seattle and King County. Renters can search for currently available housing by rent, location, bed and bath configuration, pet friendliness and other search parameters. The website will be available in both English and Spanish, and interpretation services will be available for those who speak other languages. Renters or landlords who do not have access to a computer can get personal help over the phone to search for housing or list their property.


The housing search service was originally proposed by OH, the Rental Housing Association and the Tenants Union, working together to allocate funds available through a legal settlement for the purpose of improving rental housing in Seattle. This seed money was matched by five funding partners: the City of Seattle, King County, the Seattle and King County housing authorities, and the United Way of King County. The Seattle Housing Authority has been hired by this service consortium to administer the program locally.


Socialserve.com, an organization based in Charlotte, NC, was recently awarded a contract to provide the service. A national nonprofit, Socialserve partners with state and local housing agencies to provide increased access to affordable housing information, managing housing locator services around the country. Socialserve also works with emergency planning agencies across the country; the service can respond quickly to help people who are displaced by a disaster to find housing.


The design phase for the service is now underway. This work includes outreach to nonprofit and private landlords, training for social service agency staff, disaster response protocols, and broad marketing to renters in search of housing.


Questions? Contact Maureen Kostyack, (206) 615-0986, or Amy Gray, (206) 684-0262

Furnace Failure? HomeWise to the Rescue

When Paul and Stephanie applied for the HomeWise Weatherization Program last fall, they knew their 1940 fixer-upper needed to be weatherized. What they didn't know was that their furnace would go out in November, the same week Seattle saw its first snowfall of the season.


The need to maintain warmth in their home was not just about their own comfort, but also essential to the well-being of their baby. After enduring one cold winter by plugging in a space heater in their infant son's room, Paul and Stephanie knew it was time to get serious about weatherization.

Paul and Stephanie's Home
Paul and Stephanie's home


Fortunately, federal stimulus funds were available not only to replace the furnace, but also to invest in energy efficiency improvements that would ensure that heat stayed indoors, where it belonged. HomeWise project manager Esref Marusic audited Stephanie and Paul's home and found a lot of problems. "Their home did not have much insulation, and what was there was partial or installed wrong," says Esref. "Air quality in the house was poor due to broken kitchen and bathroom fans. And the worst was the furnace with a broken heat exchanger -- we red-tagged that right away!" In addition to replacing the furnace, Esref's scope of work made sure that insulation, weatherstripping and thermostats were up to par and that other essential safety improvements, including proper ventilation, were in place.


"Everyone was incredibly helpful, responsive and friendly," Stephanie says regarding the HomeWise process. "Esref was wonderful-he was very thorough and was clear about everything I needed to know."


She also praised the furnace contractor, Burien Natural Gas Service Inc., and Luna Insulation, the company responsible for the rest of the weatherization measures, including air sealing; door weatherstripping; insulation of attic, walls, floors and crawlspaces; insulation of the hot water tank and pipes; installation of a new bathroom exhaust fan; re-venting of the kitchen range hood; a new basement door; plus, installation of thermostats, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.


Stephanie says they've already noticed a difference. Prior to the weatherization, with the furnace set to start up if the temperature got below 60 degrees, it would regularly turn on overnight. "But now that we have insulation, the furnace never kicks in at night. The place remains comfortable through the night and doesn't lose heat nearly as quickly." Before-and-after air leakage calculations confirm Stephanie's observations, with the home's drafts cut by more than 50 percent. Basically the home went from having the equivalent of a 3-square-foot hole in the wall to something just over 1 square foot.


"I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the program saved us, particularly when our furnace broke down," Stephanie says. "If it was just my husband and I, we could bundle up for awhile if needed, I suppose. But having a little one who is much more vulnerable made the whole situation that much more urgent.


"Being in transition in terms of employment (and therefore finances!)," she adds, "we weren't sure how we would pay for it either. We are so grateful!"


To learn more about the Office of Housing's HomeWise Weatherization Program, visit www.seattle.gov/housing/homewise or call (206) 684-0244.

Mary's Story: Now He Calls Me Mom

One of OH's core functions is to fund the development of affordable housing. As such, we often highlight the buildings, as if the story of increasing affordable housing opportunities ends with grand opening celebrations. That's why we've reached out to our partners, the affordable housing providers who serve our community, to help us share the stories of those who live in the apartments funded by the Seattle Housing Levy and other city, state and federal programs.


This month we're featuring Mary, who lives in a Plymouth Housing Group apartment.


After spending the last decade in and out of jail and on the streets, Mary* now has a home. She is a sunny, articulate 32-year old who has struggled with mental illness and drugs. Now clean and sober, she's making a fresh start.


Her Plymouth apartment is decorated with photos of her family and her 9-year-old son. "These photos remind me that I can't live like that again," Mary says. "I've hurt my family enough."


Mary was a bright, academically-talented teen but she got involved in drugs and left home at 16. While on her own, Mary worked as a nanny, all the time doing drugs. After her son was born, she got involved with friends who were using and selling methamphetamine. She began using herself, and that led to jail.


Mary emerged from jail in 2006 drug-free, and she hasn't used since. But she found herself homeless, jobless, and on her own. While her parents agreed to care for her son, but they lost faith in Mary. She ended up on the streets where she learned to endure cold nights outdoors in city parks rather than risk the dangers of homeless shelters.


"It's scary being a female alone on the streets at night or in shelters," Mary says.

Mary surrounds herself with family photos in her Plymouth Housing Group apartment
photo: Doug Plummer


After she was arrested in a street dispute, Mary got a break. She was referred to the local mental health system, where a caseworker helped her get treatment for bi-polar disorder and panic attacks. Finally, Mary was offered a chance to live in a Plymouth apartment.


"I am so pleased to have a roof over my head at last, a place to call my own," she says. "At Plymouth, I feel like they have confidence in me."


Mary has now turned her attention to education. She is enrolled in classes at Seattle Central Community College with the goal of becoming a chemical dependency counselor.


Mary now is allowed to visit her son, and she talks with him on the phone several times a week. "There was a time when my son called me Mary," she says. "That hurt. But now he calls me Mom."


*name changed to protect her privacy

One Year Later, Families Transform Once Foreclosed Subdivision in Rainier Beach

A cul-de-sac of new homes tucked behind the OH-funded Rose Street Apartments at the corner of South Rose Street and Rainier Avenue South was on the verge of becoming another fatality of the foreclosure epidemic sweeping the nation.


Wolcott Before
Fall 2010: water stands on the foundation of an unfinished home

When the lender foreclosed upon this unfinished development on Wolcott Avenue South in the summer of 2010, it could have remained incomplete and vacant for months or years. With five homes finished but unsold, two homes half built, and foundations alone standing on the remaining eight lots, the subdivision likely would have attracted graffiti and other crime.


Fast forward a year later and this little corner in Rainier Beach looks nothing like that dreadful worst-case scenario that has played out around other areas of the country hit hard by the bursting of the housing bubble. In fact, the colorful Wolcott houses are a bright spot in the otherwise dreary world of foreclosures, providing new homes to moderate-wage young couples and families with children (read the story of the Li family here).


With the help of a Seattle Office of Housing loan, Homestead Community Land Trust purchased the development last fall, and in the months since completed the unfinished homes. On Sept. 21, Homestead was joined by its many partners, many of the new homeowners, City Councilmember Nick Licata and Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith, to celebrate the success with a barbeque, catered by Southeast Seattle favorite Willie's Taste of Soul. The final home will close on Oct. 15, the one-year anniversary of Homestead's closing on the development.


Sherrie Belt
Sherrie Belt and her daughter Alexis pose on the front porch of their new home

Because of the land trust model, and with support from the City's downpayment assistance program, all 15 homes were purchased by moderate-income first-time homebuyers. Prior to the foreclosure, these homes were on the market for $299,950 to $359,950. Homestead sold the homes for between $190,000 and $245,000, and as part of a land trust, they will remain affordable to future Seattle households.


A key component of the project financing provided by OH was funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which allocated dollars to areas around the country hardest hit by foreclosures. The Federal Home Loan Bank and the Washington State Housing Trust Fund provided additional funding for the project. Of the 15 homebuyers, 13 received downpayment assistance through the Office of Housing, which is available to households earning up to 80% of area median income or $57,800 for a family of three.


As a community land trust (CLT), Homestead creates affordable housing by taking the cost of land out of the purchase price of a home. It keeps housing affordable for future buyers by controlling the resale price of houses on CLT land through a ground lease and resale formula. Homeowners leasing CLT land under their home enjoy the security, control and tax advantages just like any homeowner. If they sell their home, the resale formula insures that the home is kept affordable for the next family. When land values skyrocket, the inflated value of the property remains a community asset in the form of stable, affordable housing.

Wolcott After
Completed homes

Hard Hat Zone logo 

Welcome to the Hard Hat Zone, where we provide updates on the construction of affordable housing developments that receive Office of Housing funding. This month we're highlighting the Low Income Housing Institute's Gossett Place, which opened its doors to tenants last month.


Gossett Place
Gossett Place

Gossett Place

On Sept. 14, LIHI celebrated the grand opening of Gossett Place, a new 62-unit permanent supportive housing development for chronically homeless individuals and couples earning up to 30% AMI ($18,250 for an individual; $20,850 for two).


LIHI purchased the property with the help of a short-term acquisition loan from the City's Office of Housing and the United Way of King County. Additionally, OH provided $3.74 million in permanent financing, mainly from the voter-approved 2009 Seattle Housing Levy, toward construction. Other capital funding sources include King County, the State Housing Trust Fund and tax credits.


The program includes an emphasis on serving veterans, young adults, chronically homeless and/or high utilizers of the criminal justice and medical systems. LIHI is partnering with Sound Mental Health to provide on-site services, including case managers and a multidisciplinary team of mental health, chemical dependency, medical, employment and peer specialists.


For the first time, chronically homeless young adults are being given access to Housing First units, with a minimum of 20 units set aside at Gossett Place for these individuals. Housing First programs provide supportive housing regardless of substance abuse, criminal history, mental health issues or other barriers which commonly keep these young adults out of mainstream homeless housing. Case managers for homeless young adults are collaborating with King County's Client Care Coordination (CCC) Permanent Supportive Housing team. The Seattle Human Services Department worked with City-funded agencies to help refer residents to the 20 housing units set aside for young adults in Gossett Place. City-funded agencies including Catholic Community Services of King County (CCS)-University District Youth Center, Teen Feed, ROOTS and YouthCare referred young people to Gossett Place.


Additionally, 10 units will be set aside for veterans, with the support of VASH vouchers. The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA).


Gossett Place is built green and designed with sustainability as a priority, featuring energy efficient insulation and fan systems, low VOC materials, Energy-Star appliances and dual-flush toilets. In addition, Gossett Place is a non-smoking facility, which will ensure good indoor air quality for the residents. There are two rooftop decks with raised beds and planters for residents to garden and enjoy the view.  


The building is located in the University District, a neighborhood with excellent amenities and resources such as libraries and community centers, medical facilities, transit and potential opportunities for employment in the many nearby restaurants and businesses.

Seattle Public Utilities Wants Your Input on Solid Waste Management Plan
Through Oct. 7, Seattle Public Utilities is gathering public input on the Solid Waste Management Plan, which includes the programs that will increase the city's recycling rate and improve solid waste services. While SPU staff have been soliciting input from individuals and groups that represent various community and business groups, they are interested in more participation from people who represent the low-income community.


Ways to participate:


1) Take the online survey and answer the questions from the perspective of someone who advocates for low-income residents. The survey, available at www.seattle.gov/util/SolidWastePlan, should not take more than 10-15 minutes.

2) Read through the plan recommendations (also on the website) and send an e-mail with comments about how those recommendations would affect low-income people.

3) Forward this information to people or organizations that represent low-income communities. 

Be Here. Get There. Attendance Campaign Launches

The Mayor's Office, in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, the Alliance for Education and Get Schooled, yesterday launched an exciting citywide campaign to encourage students to get to school. "Be Here. Get There." is a research-driven, incentive-based campaign designed to increase community focus and awareness on the important link between school attendance and a student's future success. Throughout the year schools, classrooms, individual teachers and students will be awarded prizes for the most improved attendance. "Be Here. Get There" rewards positive behavior and educates students, families and the community about the shared responsibility to get students to school every day.


For more information, please visit www.getschooled.com/seattle

Seattle Office of Housing logo
Home Base is published monthly by the City of Seattle Office of Housing. OH funds affordable workforce housing, both rental and ownership, as well as supportive housing that helps vulnerable people achieve stability and move along a path toward self-sufficiency. Office of Housing initiatives also help stimulate housing development, allowing families to thrive and neighborhoods to provide a full range of housing choice and opportunity. The mission of the Seattle Office of Housing is to build strong healthy communities and increase opportunities for people of all income levels to live in our city.
For more information on our programs, visit our website. If you have questions about this newsletter, please contact Julie Moore via email or at (206) 684-0604.