Thank you for contacting me about our permanent housing units on Aurora Avenue. I am really looking forward to working with you as we move forward in our development process. We hope to close on the purchase of the property by mid January at the latest. I will try to keep you posted as our development schedule progresses.
Below are answers to your questions. In July, I received many of these questions directly from Linda Clifton and responded solely to her. In retrospect it probably would have been helpful then for me to have shared my answers with you. I have included those responses and have answered the three questions you asked that were not included in her original inquiry.
1. Since all the units are small studio or 1-bedroom spaces, there is no provision for housing families, and an income limit of 30% of median, there is almost no mix of tenants, and a physically limited configuration will be with us for the life of the building. Are you open to modifying your proposal to include space for families with children, and a wider range of income eligibility?
The funding we are receiving for does not allow us to provide a mixed use building in terms of income levels. All of the units need to be below 30% of median income. We have talked as a project team about the possibility of including families. In our buildings we typically serve either families or singles. Given that and the proximity to the highway we still targeting adults and couples without children at this location.
2. This will become the 3rd such large facility housing similar populations between the Battery Street tunnel and N. 107th–all on the 358 bus line, joining several facilities in the neighborhood already dealing with troubled populations. How do you see the long term effect on further redevelopment on Aurora, such as at the Italia/Isabella site?
It would be beyond my expertise to speculate on the future of Aurora Avenue, especially for such a large stretch of the highway as the tunnel to 107th. There are many blocks in downtown Seattle that have a much higher density of affordable housing and it does not seem to have slowed the condo builders. We have a purchase and sales agreement with the owners of the Thunderbird and the Italia/Isabella. They might be better suited to answer your question about future plans for the second location, though in my experience a property owner will not engage with a buyer to the detriment of their other landholdings.
3. You have talked about providing a number of supports for residents of the building. What is your long-term commitment to running the place as a responsible good neighbor, and how will you sustain this commitment if your initial funding shrinks or disappears?
Buildings funded through state and local governments typically have a 50+ commitment towards affordability. This includes the subsidy that pays for a significant portion of the tenant’s rent. Our current budget balances based on these subsidies including reserve deposits to ensure the long term maintenance of the building. The two case managers are funded with long tem contracts through local sources. The funders are careful to not over commit their funds and they know that they are committed for the long term. This is different from emergency services such as shelters which operate on year to year contracts. The state, county and city have an interest in protecting their equity investment. We have buildings that are 20 years old and have solid budgets and buildings.
4. What are your plans for helping your residents become contributing members of the neighborhood? How will you deal with violations of behavioral agreements in your lease?
We have a building staff that will work with tenants to achieve the individual goals they develop. The definition of a contributing member of the neighbor will be different given the individual, just as current neighbors are engaged to different degrees. Behavioral violations of lease agreements are dealt with according to the Seattle Landlord Tenant Law. In addition, we have case managers who try to intervene with the tenants to connect them to resources and support that enable them to abide by their leases and keep their housing.
5. How will you continue to be accountable to the neighborhood for the assurances you make to us now?
Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services have been working in this community for decades. We are not a start up organization that is going away. We are building housing in a community and plan to be part of this community for years. We are accountable through our tenants, through our building staff, and through the larger management of our organization.
6. We understand that the architectural plans for the building are preliminary. Many neighbors near the facility are very concerned about loss of privacy since the west side of the building will look directly down into their yards and windows. What modifications can you make to the building’s design to minimize or, preferably, eliminate this intrusion?
Upon being awarded funding we began meeting with the architect on a weekly basis. The impact of our building design on the neighbors is always part of those meetings. As you know the property is long and narrow. Our current design puts parking for tenants along the west boundary of the property. This is a change from the current building which sits almost on the property line. We are hoping that the driveway will help with privacy issues. Furthermore our roof space is oriented to the east part of the property to provide distance from the neighbors.
7. Will your building be designed using CPTED guidelines to add to public safety by its very structure? Will your proposed space on the west side of the building become an unsupervised gathering spot for trouble rather than the buffer intended? How will you work to eliminate or mitigate that possibility?
Our current design calls for 24 hour front desk coverage in a secure access building. The front desk staff will monitor people entering from both the west side and the east side of the property. We have changed our design to increase transparency on the first floor which also helps with visual surveillance. Many of our newer buildings also incorporate video surveillance systems. I am not sure if this building will have that type of system. We are carefully considering our choices of landscaping, building finishes due to the current level of graffiti in the neighborhood, and other design choices in line with the CPTED guidelines. I am mindful that design can increase the safety of spaces or create trouble zones. However, in my experience the sense of community developed in a space and the quality of the staff are equally important in the long run to create and maintain a place where people take ownership in their home and community.
8. Will you require any religious affirmations or participation by either tenants or staff, and will you observe requirements against discrimination in hiring?
Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services will receive government funding for the construction and ongoing operation of these apartments. Per our government contracts we do not require participation in religious services nor do we discriminate in our hiring practices.
Please contact me with any additional questions. Thank you.