Launch Slideshow

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    Michael Walmsley

    The new Ernestine Anderson Place in Seattle by the Low Income Housing Institute is serving some of the city's most chronically homeless seniors.

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    Ray White

    The development is named after jazz legend Ernestine Anderson, who grew up in the neighborhood. Pictured are Anderson and Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute.

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    Michael Walmsley

    The Low Income Housing Institute built the $13 million development on a vacant parcel that was in foreclosure.

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    Michael Walmsley

    The nonsmoking building features a number of green elements, including energy-efficient appliances and insulation.

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    Michael Walmsley

    The project is providing case management and extensive support services by Sound Mental Health for the residents.

Low-income seniors in Seattle have plenty to sing about at the new Ernestine Anderson Place.

Named after the famed jazz singer who grew up in the neighborhood, the property features 60 studio and one-bedroom apartments, including 30 units set aside for chronically homeless seniors, 15 for other homeless seniors, and 15 for elderly residents with low incomes.

"It was a priority for us," says Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), the developer behind the project. "We found out there were about 1,000 homeless seniors in Seattle and King County. They were living on the streets and in shelters."

A count of the overall homeless population conducted in January found more than 2,700 people sleeping outside, about 5 percent more than last year, according to Lee.

Ernestine Anderson Place goes a long way to filling the needs of the eldest people on the streets.

LIHI and its social services partner, Sound Mental Health, targeted homeless seniors who were the most frequent utilizers of emergency rooms, detox centers, and jail to be the first residents. Studies have shown that providing permanent supportive housing is less expensive than leaving the homeless to cycle in and out of the more expensive emergency and justice systems.

Because the individuals were on the streets, many were tough to track down. During lease-up, the team worked down a county list of frequent users and made sure individuals arrived at the necessary appointments until the 30 units for the chronically homeless were filled.

The 15 apartments for others who have been homeless include eight for homeless veterans. These units are supported under the Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which provides rental assistance along with comprehensive services from the VA.

Residents include an 81-year-old veteran who was homeless. The next oldest is a 72-year-old vet who came from a shelter.

More than four walls and a roof, the community offers case management and extensive support services provided by Sound Mental Health. Three social workers are on site.

LIHI built the $13 million development on a vacant parcel that was in foreclosure. Another developer had hoped to construct a market-rate apartment complex on the site, but those plans died when the recession hit.

In another musical connection, the property recently served as a temporary resting spot for Jimi Hendrix's childhood house, which was moved there from its original location.

After acquiring the land from the Bank of Washington in 2010, LIHI turned to several different funding sources to finance the development, starting with about $9.5 million in low-income housing tax credit equity from Enterprise Community Investment. The credits were awarded to the development from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

Seattle and King County were also critical. The city provided about $2.4 million from a voter-approved housing levy and HOME funds, and the county contributed $500,000 in capital from a voter-approved veterans and human services levy.

U.S. Bank provided a $7.3 million construction loan and helped sponsor a $650,000 Affordable Housing Program award from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. The United Way of King County gave LIHI an acquisition loan to buy the property, and the Seattle Housing Authority provided 33 Sec. 8 vouchers as well as the eight HUD-VASH vouchers.

Designed by Runberg Architecture Group, Ernestine Anderson Place was built with a number of green features, including energy-efficient insulation, fan systems, and appliances. The building is a nonsmoking community to help ensure good air quality.

In a final touch, the building is decorated with photos of Anderson. The 84-year-old singer attended the recent grand opening on a day that Seattle declared Ernestine Anderson Day.