SEATTLE—The Seattle Housing Authority has transformed a site that formerly contained 16 public housing townhomes into one with a green 86-unit building and rich with amenities for low-income residents.
The townhomes on the 1.8-acre site had become inhabitable after being plagued with persistent flooding from inadequate drainage in the area and were demolished in 2001. The city corrected the runoff problems and regraded the site to make way for Lake City Court, which was completed in August.
“It's really a site that is urban in character, and I think it is used much more effectively now,” says Virginia Felton, director of communications and strategic planning at the housing authority.
Because the project received an $8 million stimulus grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the housing authority was able to push the green envelope and go beyond what was required. According to the housing authority, the project is 30 percent more energy-efficient than typical new construction.
A large array of photovoltaic panels provides 10 percent of the building's energy needs, and a solar hot water system generates up to half of the building's domestic hot water. The units are heated with high-efficiency gas-fired hydronic heat. Other green features for the nonsmoking building include extensive ventilation in the units and corridors; low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets; and Energy Star appliances.
On the exterior, there are a number of rain gardens and porous pavement, so stormwater goes into the ground instead of the sewer systems. The site also features community gardens, where residents will grow their own organic produce starting this spring, more than 100 bike racks in about five different locations around the site, as well as a playground and a barbecue and picnic area that is shared with neighboring Lake City House, a lowincome high-rise. A mid-block connector also has been added to tie the two communities together.
Felton says one of the things that distinguishes this dense site is that it is surrounded by native vegetation, sunlight, and opportunities to garden.
“It provides an extraordinary connection to the natural world that is so often lost in the middle of the city,” she says.
Another significant aspect of Lake City Court, according to Felton, is that it supplies affordable family housing in the north end of Seattle. She says affordable housing is more commonly located in the south end of the city.
“This represents a real frontier of affordable housing being distributed throughout the city,” she says. “This is a particular priority for us to add affordable housing in areas that haven't had enough of it."
The majority of units are targeted toward families, including 18 fourbedroom units for larger families. Fifty-one units will serve residents with incomes below 30 percent of the area median income (AMI), and 35 units will serve residents with incomes below 60 percent of the AMI. The housing authority expected the project to be fully leased at the end of 2011.
In addition to the ARRA grant, the $31 million project was financed with a $10.5 million federal HOPE VI grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and $12 million of low-income housing tax credit equity from Enterprise Community Investment, Inc. KeyBank provided a $10.6 million construction loan.