June 2015 

The Low Income Housing Institute invites you to the

Groundbreaking Ceremony for:



University Commons

49 affordable apartments for homeless youth


University District Food Bank



The Low Income Housing Institute invites you to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for University Commons and the University District Food Bank on Tuesday, June 16th at 3:30pm at 5019 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle. 


University Commons is a mixed-use project in the University District that will open in summer 2016. The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) purchased the property to provide affordable apartments for homeless young adults age 18-24 and low-wage workers who are entering the workforce.


New and expanded space for the University District Food Bank will be located on the first floor. A cafe will be built on the south side facing the University Branch Library. The housing includes 49 studio apartments on three upper floors. The second floor is designated for 15 homeless young adults with YouthCare and Ryther providing supportive services.


Runberg Architecture Group is the architect. The General Contractor is BNBuilders. The building will be built green and includes many energy efficient features. There will be a no smoking policy. The building features community space, classroom, counseling space and decks. The Food Bank will use the roof for urban agriculture by growing vegetables and herbs.


The project will bring multiple community benefits: food security from the Food Bank, affordable housing to the University District, and housing plus services to reduce homelessness among our city's young adults.


Funding sources for the housing includes City of Seattle, King County and Washington State.  KeyBank is providing construction financing.  Tax credit equity is being provided through the Washington State Housing Finance Commission and National Equity Fund. SHA is providing rental assistance.  A private donation from the Wyncote NW Foundation enabled LIHI to purchase the land. 


Come celebrate with us! To RSVP or for info, contact Aaron Long.


August Wilson Place

Grand Opening

Clockwise from top left: a standing room only crowd gathered to celebrate the opening; August Wilson's widow Constanza Romero; Sharon Lee and Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci; the family, project funders, and LIHI staff; student Alexis Baldridge wowing the crowd with an August Wilson monologue.


Sometimes it takes a village and a playwright.  The creation of August Wilson Place required the cooperation of an unprecedented number of public and private organizations, plus the family of the renowned Pulitzer Prize winning playwright for whom the building is named.


On May 26th all gathered to celebrate the building's grand opening. 


Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci stated: "This is an amazing project. This is a small drop in the bucket in terms of the number of units that are needed in order to provide the homes that people that work here and work hard need in order to live near where they work."  LIHI received over 350 applications for the 57 apartments, and more inquiries come every day.  The waiting list is closed for the time being.  Bellevue is increasingly unaffordable as it has the highest rents in the region.  Over the past year the average rent in Bellevue increased 9.4% from $1,547 to $1,692.


Newly moved-in resident Tracey told her story to the crowd.  She was working in IT in Bellevue and then lost her job. She moved away to be with family, but always wanted to come back to Bellevue. When she came back she stayed at Sophia Way, where they helped her look for housing. She is so happy she found August Wilson Place.  Making $12 an hour, she said she wouldn't be able to afford to be living in market-rate housing in Bellevue at three times that. "We need more housing like this in this town. We need housing like this ALL over this town."


Another new resident, Diana, said, "When I moved in I had a friend come over and helped me put things away. She had several comments about the building and my studio apartment. I'll quote: 'Wow! WOW! WOOOW!'"


August Wilson's widow Constanza Romero echoed the sentiments of the residents: "I'm sure that August would have been honored to have his name attached to such a worthy endeavor that lends housing and shelter to those in need." And added, "This is a handsome building and it fits my handsome husband."


The press was present in force.  Please view these stories about the event and the critical need for affordable housing in Bellevue:


King 5:  August Wilson Place: $400 a month apartments open in Bellevue

KIRO:  August Wilson Place: Affordable housing comes to Bellevue

Seattle Times:  Affordable housing vanishes as Eastside grows richer      


August Wilson Place features 57 affordable workforce apartments available to families and individuals making 60% or less of area median income. Included are 12 units for homeless families, eight units for veterans, and three units for families with children with developmental disabilities.


GGLO is the architect and Synergy Construction is the contractor.


Thank you to our many wonderful funding partners: King County, ARCH (Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Redmond, Newcastle, Woodinville, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point & Kenmore), Wells Fargo, National Equity Fund, King County Housing Authority, HUD, Washington State Housing Finance Commission, Washington State Housing Trust Fund, Washington Community Reinvestment Association, The Home Depot Foundation, and The Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle.

      From Low Income Housing to Home Ownership

LIHI is proud to announce that one of its long-time residents has recently become a home owner. After living at Meadowbrook View Apartments for 12 years with her family, former resident Lemlem recently purchased a home in Rainier Valley.



When the family originally emigrated from Ethiopia, where they still have family, they first came to Indianapolis, but then moved to Meadowbrook View to be near Lemlem's sister in Shoreline. They've struggled with language barriers and cultural differences, but never let that stop them from achieving their dreams.


Lemlem, her two sons and her brother quickly outgrew their apartment at Meadowbrook View and were looking for other options. She initially tried to purchase a condominium through LIHI in 2009, but the housing market crashed and many home loans were denied due to dropping market value. Adding to her stress, she lost her job during this period and was out of work for over a year. Lemlem thought her dream of owning her own home was over. It was then that LIHI Program Coordinator Lynn DeMarco sat down with Lemlem to work on a strategy for homeownership.


After applying three times for Habitat for Humanity's King County housing program and numerous times with other agencies, she was finally accepted by Habitat. Lemlem successfully purchased a Habitat for Humanity townhome and moved into it in January 2015. She had dreamt of homeownership for years and it was now a reality. She says she "couldn't be happier" with the results.


No one would say that Lemlem and her family don't deserve their home. In addition to the years she spent putting herself through school and looking for work, she and her brother put in 500 hours of sweat equity on their new home. As part of Habitat for Humanity's program, the family had to help build housing in their future neighborhood. They spent months digging trenches and putting up framing. In the end, they moved into a beautiful three bedroom house in the heart of a vibrant community near Columbia City.


Lemlem and her family are so grateful for their new home, but do miss living at Meadowbrook View. Lemlem's children participated in many LIHI activities, like Arts Corps, summer sack lunch, and Summer Camp. They grew up and made many friends at Meadowbrook View. When the time came to move, she says her children struggled with leaving. Lemlem herself had also formed a close bond with Lynn, whom she describes as having a "good heart." She says she learned a lot from Lynn and leaned on her support over the years. While they wanted to stay, they knew it was time to move on.


Lynn recently attended the dedication ceremony of Lemlem's new home. Lynn says she could not be more proud and happy for the family who worked so hard and never gave up on their dream. She knows this family will be successful in everything they do and is looking forward to watching them blossom in their new community.

We are thankful for your support!
Sharon Lee
Executive Director
Low Income Housing Institute