City rolls out $30 million “strategic investment fund” RFP for anti-displacement efforts

It’s been a big week for investments in Seattle’s BIPOC communities. First, the City Council approved $1 million to allow the Office for Civil Rights to move the $30 million participatory budgeting program forward; then yesterday the Mayor’s Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force unveiled their recommendations for how to invest another $30 million. Now this morning, Mayor Durkan announced the release of an RFP for proposals for land and property acquisition “to respond to disproportionate displacement pressures impacting black, Indigenous, and people of color communities.”

The $30 million tied to the RFP comes from the city’s Strategic Investment Fund, which was originally funded from the sale of the Mercer Megablock, but last fall in her proposed 2021 budget the Mayor cut it as a budget-reduction measure due to COVID. However, under pressure from community advocates the City Council restored the funding (taking the $30 million from the Mayor’s proposed $100 million Equitable Communities Initiative).

According to the press release issued today, proposals will be accepted for funding property acquisitions (land, land with existing structures, or space within a building) of up to $5 million each, focused in areas of the city with high displacement risk and/or low access to opportunity, and particularly in areas with planned public investments such as light rail stations that will increase opportunity — and with that also increase displacement. The intent of the program is to build community wealth:

Grow assets that address historical disinvestment in BIPOC neighborhoods and communities. Invest in strategies that secure land and other assets for public and community ownership, create good jobs and career pathways, create stability for residents in housing and health, anchor and grow community institutions, and build on existing capacity for community-led development. Support long term plans to support multi-generational wealth and the sustainability of these assets.

The city’s guide for applying to the RFP lists several types of eligible applicants, including:

  • community-based organizations representing groups at high risk of displacement;
  • commercial or residential tenants at risk of displacement, with ideas for community wealth-building such as co-ops or community land trusts;
  • property owners in target areas who are interested in discounting their land and providing public benefits for communities experiencing displacement, and are already working with a community-based organization;
  • developers or owners of affordable housing projects with vacant commercial spaces who wish to offer community ownership opportunities in the property.

The city has created a Community Advisory Group to review and make recommendations on which proposals will be funded, “comprised of community representatives with diverse experience and expertise in affordable housing, community development, and equitable development.” The CAG will initially have nineteen members:

Joel Ing- Edge Developers
Ann Melone- US Bank
Tony To- Homesight
Sue Taoka- Formerly Craft 3
Paulina Lopez- Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, Equitable Communities Initiative Taskforce
Cesar Garcia- Lake City Collective
Susan Balbas- Na‘ah Illahee Fund
Willard Brown- Formerly Delridge Neighborhood Development Association, EDI Advisory Board
Kris Hermanns- Seattle Foundation
Kateesha Atterberry- Urban Black LLC
Rich Stolz- One America
Tim Lennon- Langston Hughes Performing Art Center, Cultural Space Agency PDA
Ebony Arunga- Seaweed International
Esther Lucero- Seattle Indian Health Board, Equitable Communities Initiative Taskforce
Yordanos Teferi- Multicultural Community Center, EDI Advisory Board
Sharon Williams- Central District Forums, Equitable Communities Initiative Taskforce
Ray Williams- Black Farmers Collective, Equitable Communities Initiative Taskforce
Sophia Benalfew- Ethiopian Community Seattle
Derrick Belgarde- Chief Seattle Club

RFP responses are due by midnight on July 14; the CAG will review and make its recommendations in August, and the final selections are expected to be confirmed in October.

More information on the RFP can be found here.

Mayor Durkan also announced that she plans to propose another $100 million for BIPOC communities in her 2022 budget. “The Strategic Investment Fund is a unique opportunity to support equitable development so that all communities can continue to call Seattle home,” she said. “Investments of this type will take years to right the wrongs of the past. That’s why I’ve committed to making another $100 million investment as part of my proposed 2022 budget.”

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