The Aries at Bitter Lake in North Seattle provides 200 units of affordable housing.
William Wright Photography The Aries at Bitter Lake in North Seattle provides 200 units of affordable housing.

Bellwether Housing continues to bring new affordable housing to the Seattle area.

In fall 2023, the nonprofit opened The Aries at Bitter Lake, a 200-unit affordable housing development that was started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to The Aries, Bellwether Housing parceled off part of the North Seattle site that it had acquired in December 2019 to DESC, which serves the homeless, to create The North Star, a 100-unit permanent supportive housing development. It also served as DESC’s development consultant.

To recognize the relationship with DESC and the site, Bellwether Housing tied its development name to The North Star. Since “bellwether” means the ram that leads the flock, it selected the Aries, or ram, constellation.

The Aries was designed to serve families earning 50% and 60% of the area median income; over half of the units have two and three bedrooms.

“We really focus our projects on family-size units,” says Jovan Ludovice, vice president of real estate development. “We noticed there’s been a market need for it on the affordability side.”

William Wright Photography

The family focus continues with the development’s common areas, which include an elevated courtyard with a playground and a stage as well as a large courtyard at the building’s entry with seating areas and community garden beds where residents can grow produce.

The resident coordinator’s office also is located on the second floor near the amenity space and play area so there’s more frequent interaction with residents.

“We’re not a permanent supportive housing provider, but our resident services focus on providing employment, career, education, and housing stability,” says Ludovice. “It’s really helping them access resources and benefits that they might not be familiar with.”Bellwether Housing and its partners, general contractor Walsh Construction and architect SMR Architects, also focused on reducing costs and sustainability.

The all-electric building features a solar array on the roof, LED light fixtures, a supertight building envelope with air filtration, and a central heat pump hot water system.

“We pushed pretty hard on energy efficiency,” notes senior housing developer Mindy Black. “We are really shooting for zero-carbon buildings in the future, and this is our first step to eliminate natural gas and rely on renewables.”

According to Black, Walsh Construction deployed its Cost-Efficient Design and Construction (CEDC) methodology to save money and time. This included utilizing standard floor plans and limiting the number of layouts as well as having walls framed off-site.The $76.3 million development received an allocation of bond cap and low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC). Wells Fargo is the LIHTC investor and construction lender, while Citi Community Capital is the construction and permanent lender and provided the tax-exempt debt. Bellwether Housing also provided sponsor and deferred developer notes.

In addition, The Aries is the first development funded by the Evergreen Impact Housing Fund (EIHF) to open to residents. The EIHF, a private capital social impact investment fund managed by the Seattle Foundation and administered by WSHFC, provided a low-interest loan and allowed the project to move forward on time.