Seattle Housing Authority Creates Its First New Public Housing in Years

SHA Lake City project.jpg
Locally, the Seattle Housing Authority gets beat up a lot. The agency is forever facing accusations that it is gentrifying its facilities. A group of homeowners at the agency's first spruced-up development, NewHolly, sued a few years back over alleged defects in construction and management. Most recently, a woman won a long-running eviction battle in court. But SHA is beloved in D.C. It continually wins enormous grants, allowing it to build while housing authorities around the country are contracting. Witness the new Lake City development it is showing to the press today.

Lake City Court, an 86-unit apartment building, is the first "new public housing" that the agency has built in recent memory, according to SHA spokesperson Virginia Felton. By that, she means that the facility is not a redevelopment, along the lines of NewHolly or Rainier Vista, where the agency tore down old buildings and replaced them with fancier housing catering to a mixed-income demographic.

SHA had previously torn something down on the Lake City site, but the units had already been replaced elsewhere. These are 86 additional units, some of which are for families making no more than 60 percent of the local median income ($52,000 for a family of four), and some for families earning half that.

The agency won not one but two federal grants to pull it off. SHA took home $8 million of stimulus funds. That's the funding, you may recall, that President Obama pushed through to create jobs--a plan labeled "fantasy economics" by Michelle Bachmann before it was revealed that she went to the trough herself to get some.

Agencies had to prove they were green to get the funding. And Felton says SHA has delivered, with solar panels (pictured above) that are supposed to generate electricity and supply half the building's hot water.

Another $10.5 million of the $31 million project comes from so-called "HOPE VI" funds, which are used for mixed-income redevelopments. Even though the Lake City Court is new, SHA was able to qualify because the project lies adjacent to another housing development and because the agency plans to build additional middle-income housing when the economy picks up.

Even Seattle Displacement Coalition head John Fox, a fierce critic of SHA, can't immediately find fault with the project. "If it's really new housing, that's great," he says. "The more housing, the better."

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