New affordable housing project announced in Northgate

Yesterday King County announced a new, 232-unit affordable housing project next to the new Northgate light rail station.

Source: King County

The project, in partnership with Seattle’s Office of Housing, BRIDGE Housing, and Capitol Hill Housing, will build units reserved for households at 60% of AMI or less. It will include a mix of unit sized, with at least 52 two-bedroom and three-bedroom. 24 of the units will be reserved for “system connected” housing, designed for households experiencing barriers to housing who are in the process of leaving system-based institutions such as the criminal justice system. Seattle’s Office of Housing and King County Department of Community and Human Services are each contributing $10 million to the project.

Groundbreaking is expected in 2022, a year after the new light rail station opens in Northgate. The project’s footprint will only take up the northeast corner of the lot that King County is hoping to develop.

However, the fine print of the announcement provides the latest chapter a larger story about King County’s repeated stumbles since 2012 in trying to broker transit-oriented development projects on the site. In October 2017, the county issued a request for bids for a market-rate housing development project on the site that would include at least 200 affordable units. But after receiving two bids it withdrew the RFP in June of 2018 in response to a change in state law that provided more flexibility to local governments in making public land available for housing projects. This delayed any potential completion date for a housing project beyond the planned opening date for the Northgate light rail station — and angered Council member Juarez, who had pushed for coordinating the schedule of several projects in the area to coincide with the opening of the station. King County reissued its RFP in September 2018, breaking a promise that it would increase the required minimum number of affordable housing units from the 200 specified in the original RFP.

According to yesterday’s announcement, King County selected one of the RFP respondents, Stellar Holdings and Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group, for development of the property but could not successfully negotiate a development agreement and is no longer pursuing it. King County said that it doesn’t intend to reissue an RFP right away:

Metro now intends to hold the property until at least 2024, which coincides with the opening of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail station. Over the next five years, Metro has the opportunity look at evolving service needs of the area and align it with plans for the ETOD. For now, the parcel will continue to serve as a park-and-ride.

To sum up: a 232-unit affordable housing project will open probably in 2023, and further transit-oriented development at the Northgate site is on hold for the next several years.

Council member Juarez could not be reached for comment.