Dept. of Commerce invests $312.6 million in housing opportunities

The funding is being called a “historic” investment in units and homes for low-income homebuyers.

On Jan. 18, the Washington State Department of Commerce announced what the department is calling “historic investments” totaling $312.6 million to address the need for affordable housing in communities throughout Washington state.

Lack of affordable housing and sufficient supportive housing options for vulnerable populations are top contributors to chronic homelessness. It is estimated that over 1.1 million new housing units must be added across Washington state over the next 20 years to meet projected needs at all income levels.

“These investments are an important step forward to ensuring everyone has an affordable place to live and the dream of homeownership is possible for every hard-working family,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a written statement. “Because our Legislature went big on housing, thousands of families will benefit.”

Commerce is awarding $274 million to 48 projects that will result in 3,443 multifamily/rental housing units, including housing for people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness. Another $38.6 million will fund 25 projects that create homeownership opportunities for 470 first-time homebuyers with low incomes.

Commerce received 140 applications for state and federal funding in the fall 2023 round to develop affordable housing units and provide new homeownership assistance. Reviewers, including partner agencies and people with lived experience, conducted an extensive process in tandem with other public funders to make award determinations.

The 73 awarded projects are distributed across all regions of the state.

Of the total units created by this funding, 1,038 will be reserved for residents who are homeless at entry. Sixteen of these projects will create a combined 554 permanent supportive housing units. Permanent supportive housing differs from emergency shelter or transitional housing in that it provides longer-term housing coupled with flexible voluntary services. These services are tailored to meet the individual needs of each person, including coaching, training and services to help them preserve independence and sustain tenancy, reducing the chances of falling into or returning to homelessness.

Ten projects received $24.3 million set aside to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These projects will create 155 units of accessible housing reserved for low-income people with these disabilities across the state.

Seven projects were funded with $58.6 million set aside for the Apple Health & Homes (AHAH) program, creating 144 units for Apple Health & Homes program participants and 354 total units of permanent supportive housing. AHAH is a multi-agency effort that pairs healthcare services with housing resources for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. The program is based in the concept that lack of housing is a social determinant of health, and individuals with disabling conditions such as medical, behavioral health, and physical impairments may not improve until their housing is stable.

Five projects received the first allocation of funds from a new transit-oriented development public-private partnership match program. Emphasizing projects already in the pipeline in dense, walkable communities, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and The Amazon Housing Equity fund partnered to provide $28.8 million that will advance 1,133 housing units.

Eleven projects were selected for $56.3 million in awards targeting rural communities.

In vetting projects for capital awards, Commerce seeks opportunities to leverage additional local, state, nonprofit and other funding sources. The total residential development costs represented in the awarded projects announced on Jan. 18 is nearly $1.5 billion – or more than $5 for every $1 invested by Commerce.

Funded projects in King County include:

• The Kent Multicultural Village, managed by Mercy Housing Northwest ($8,000,000)

• ROOTS Young Adult Shelter in Seattle ($3,000,000)

• Bellwhether Overlake Apartments in Redmond ($7,900,000)

• Spring District/120th Station in Bellevue, managed by Bridge Housing Corp ($8,000,000)

The $38.5 million in funds awarded for homeownership – the largest ever investment by this program – will fund new construction, down payment assistance, and affordability subsidies to create affordable homeownership opportunities for 470 first-time homebuyers with low incomes. These projects were selected from 48 applicants requesting just under $95 million, a significant increase from prior funding rounds.

The state Housing Trust Fund administered by Commerce invests through eligible entities to help people with low incomes secure the dream of homeownership via various models. These include down payment assistance, affordability subsidies, and acquisition and rehabilitation of existing properties. Homes funded through Commerce may only be sold or resold to households with incomes, adjusted by size, of less than 80% of the area median income in urban locations and 100% of the area median income for rural locations. Affordability of these homes remains secure for a minimum of 25 years.

Local governments, housing authorities, non-profit organizations, and federally recognized tribes are eligible to receive homeownership funding.

Organizations in King County that were given grant funding for homeownership programs include:

• United Housing Resources in Kent ($4,000,000)

• Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County for their Orchard Gardens project in Bellevue ($609,600)

• Homestead Community Land Trust for the Willowcrest Townhomes project in Renton ($1,540,000)

Of the over $38,864,000 in funding requested by King County organizations, over $13,349,000 was awarded to homeownership programs by the department.