FOLLOWUP: Council OKs affordable-homeownership future for ex-substation in Highland Park. Here’s where the money’s coming from

(2013 image via Seattle City Light)

A decade after Seattle City Light (SCL) started the process of divesting itself of the former Dumar Substation on the southwest corner or 16th/Holden, it’s finally happening. At this afternoon’s Seattle City Council meeting, a unanimous vote gave approval to transferring the 10,000+-square-foot parcel from SCL to the Office of Housing (OH). Now OH will start the process of finding a developer to build affordable-homeownership units, and commercial space, on the site. OH will give SCL $424,000 (its current appraised value) for the site, which the utility has owned since 1945. In discussion of the plan at a committee meeting last week (WSB coverage here), OH reps were asked where exactly that money’s coming from; they didn’t have the answer at the time, so we asked before today’s vote. According to OH spokesperson Nona Raybern, the source will be Mandatory Housing Affordability fees from developers who choose to pay fees rather than build affordable units in their projects. The property will eventually be “transferred to the developer who is selected through the RFP process at no cost,” Raybern added. It’s zoned Neighborhood Commercial 40 (four stories), as the result of neighborhood advocacy – to which Councilmember Lisa Herbold gave a shoutout at today’s meeting – for both building housing and business space on the site. Affordable-homeownership development has strict criteria, both for choosing buyers and for what can be done with the units – they have to be owner-occupied, for example, no renting, and if they’re sold, the buyers must meet the same eligibility rules (such as, making no more than 80 percent Area Median Income). It’s envisioned up to 16 units could be built on the site.

10 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Council OKs affordable-homeownership future for ex-substation in Highland Park. Here's where the money's coming from"

  • Tod December 5, 2023 (8:26 pm)

    Saving this parcel for the Highland Park Community, which had sit as one of many abandoned and polluted: SCL substations for decades, was accomplished by a joint effort by HPIC, Lisa Herbold and the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition. The effort faced strong resistance by the SCL Director and Staff: this save is testament to how well neighborhood activism can successfully play out (although it took years).Credit is due to Jim Diers who, as Director of the Department of Neighborhoods, set a vibrant framework for neighborhood organizations to successfully go up against City Hall and have an impactful voice in the governance of Seattle. Jim was so important to fostering this spirit of the value to the City of each neighborhood standing up that the then Mayor forced him out of his position. Jim went on to spread the word to other cites across the country.

  • raincity December 5, 2023 (8:33 pm)

    What great news – nice to hear that this is going forward.

  • Derek December 5, 2023 (8:43 pm)

    Great news! 

  • 1994 December 5, 2023 (10:59 pm)

     The property will eventually be “transferred to the developer who is selected through the RFP process at no cost,” A developer will be able to earn a profit after being transferred the property at no cost? Guess this property transfer doesn’t fall under the newly voter approved Initiative for Social Housing. From the Social Housing web site: Seattle voters approved Initiative 135 (I-135) with 57 percent of the vote. I-135 created the Seattle Social Housing Developer — a public development authority that will create social housing in Seattle.

    • WSB December 6, 2023 (2:26 am)

      No, this is not social housing. That’s rental housing; this is not. Also, regarding “profit,” the developers of “affordable homeownership,” as we’ve mentioned in other stories, are nonprofits like Homestead Community Land Trust and Habitat for Humanity.

      • DC December 6, 2023 (8:40 am)

        Is it common for these nonprofits to include commercial space in affordable homeownership projects? I’m curious how that will be incorporated. 

    • bill December 6, 2023 (9:50 am)

      1994: Should only independently wealthy people who don’t need income from work develop affordable housing? How do you think developers support themselves?

  • Ray December 6, 2023 (4:02 am)

    How does one acquire a affordable homeownership unit?

  • Admiral-2009 December 6, 2023 (9:37 am)

    Habitat for Humanity is a good outfit.  I like that they require the future buyers to put in sweat equity into their future homes.

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