Mercy Housing Northwest, one of Seattle’s largest not-for-profit affordable housing providers began construction on Mercy Othello Plaza on Thursday. The new 108 energy-efficient apartments will be built in Southeast Seattle’s Rainier Valley. Over 60 percent of the apartments will have two or three bedrooms, providing families with rental options in the $450 to $1,100 price range. The apartments will be located one block from the Othello light rail station, granting direct access to downtown, the airport and, this March, the University of Washington.
The complex will open in March 2017 and offer apartments affordable to families earning an annual income of between $18,000 and $55,000. The building will also feature 2,000 square feet of community space for resident programs and community events. Mercy Housing Northwest provides resident services that include after-school programs for kids, community health promotion and financial stability. The non-profit owns over 2,000 affordable housing units in Washington state.
“There is a clear need in Seattle for affordable family-sized housing, and Mercy Othello Plaza helps meet that need,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a press release. “This is exactly the type of investment that helps make Seattle a more affordable and livable place for working families, new immigrants to this country and those facing obstacles to stable housing. When this project is complete, residents will live in a diverse neighborhood steps away from open spaces, health services and transit options that connect them to jobs and educational opportunities throughout the city.”
The project will cost a total of $35 million and is funded by a mishmash of sources. The City of Seattle Office of Housing is providing $8.5 million from the Seattle Housing Levy. JP Morgan Chase is the construction lender. Wells Fargo Bank is providing equity. The Washington State Housing Finance Commission has allocated Low Income Housing Tax Credits and bond financing. The Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, a community-based lending institution, provided a land acquisition loan and will help finance the ground-floor office space for Mercy Housing Northwest’s new headquarters.
This news is a hopeful development amidst recent comments by Barbara Poppe, a nationally known homelessness expert hired by Mayor Ed Murray who recently shamed Seattle for opening too many tent cities. A move away from encampments towards more stable housing like Mercy Othello Plaza is one solution to make Seattle a more affordable place to live.