Department of Commerce invests $97 million in affordable housing projects
The Washington State Department of Commerce (Commerce) announced today they will invest $97 million in affordable housing projects. With a combination of federal and state funding, the state’s Housing Trust Fund grants and loans will create and preserve 1,685 units of housing statewide for low-income households, people experiencing homelessness, and others in need.
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Stable and affordable housing is a foundation for health and well-being and financial stability. However, a Harvard study reports that in 2020 nearly half of all US renters were paying more than 30% of their income in rent, and nearly a third paying more than half. This trend has held true in Washington as it’s estimated by Commerce that even before the pandemic 129,000 Washingtonians were at risk of homelessness due to a lack of affordable housing.
“Washington’s affordable housing crisis has deepened with the economic blows of the pandemic,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “These important investments, serving thousands of Washingtonians, represent tremendous collaboration between our state’s Housing Trust Fund, other federal, state and local agencies, along with private business and charitable organizations, to bring every available resource to bear in addressing this growing need throughout our state.”
The $97 million will help fund an estimated 1,404 multifamily rental units, 121 homes for first time home buyers, 86 units of modular housing, and 74 units in cottage-style communities. The $97 million breaks down into $85.3 million of funding coming from the state’s Housing Trust Fund, with $11.7 million provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOME and National Housing Trust Fund programs.
One project granted funds will provide 361 units of affordable housing in rural areas of Washington. Funds were also granted to a program that will provide 168 units of dedicated housing to people with chronic mental illness and who need permanent supportive housing.
“Equity in community development is one of our top priorities,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “The pandemic is being experienced very differently throughout our state, with more families struggling to find and keep affordable housing, many for the first time.”
The Department of Commerce says they’re also focused on projects for communities that are disproportionately likely to experience housing instability. As such, they have funded a project by Sacred Medicine House in King County, serving urban indigenous people who make up an estimated 15% of the homeless population in the community but represent just 1% of the population. This project will create 120 units of affordable housing.
Another project that is focused on equity is a project by Elizabeth Thomas Homes, which will create affordable housing for working families in a south Seattle community where 82% of residents identify as people of color. Seattle has a history of rising rents and gentrification and this project hopes to allow families to not be priced out of their communities.
“This record-setting annual investment from the Housing Trust Fund is targeted to strengthen community capacity all over the state and maximize financial impact. Every state dollar invested will leverage $5 on average from other public and private funding sources,” Brown noted.
Since its creation in 1986, Washington’s Housing Trust Fund has invested $1.3 billion to help build and preserve 55,000 units of affordable housing across the state.