SEATTLE, WA - Bellwether Housing, King County, Washington’s largest nonprofit affordable housing provider, has acquired 213 affordable homes at two locations: The BLVD, a 136-unit apartment complex in Kent and The Marina Club, a 77-unit in Des Moines. This acquisition is part of Bellwether’s strategy to preserve existing affordability levels in lower-cost rental housing in locations highly vulnerable to steep rent increases.
These acquisitions were made possible by the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, a $2 billion commitment to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable housing units by offering low-rate loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations. The low-cost financing allows Bellwether to compete with commercial-rate buyers who would acquire these units with the goal of significantly increasing existing rents.
Bellwether’s CEO, Susan Boyd, explained, “The Amazon Housing Equity Fund could not have come at a better time. Our goal has been to preserve as much affordability in King County as we can before it’s too late. Public funding sources are severely constrained and have not prioritized this kind of strategy. As we were preparing our hunt for low-cost capital, Amazon announced its Fund. We anticipate this tool will allow us to bring hundreds more units into permanent affordability and prevent hundreds of lower income families from being displaced from their homes.”
“We are so pleased to be a part of the solution by addressing housing shortages in our region,” said Catherine Buell, Director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “By teaming up with organizations such as Bellwether Housing, we are able to help grow the housing stock for households making moderate- to low-incomes. These households may include teachers, transit workers and firefighters -- people whose jobs may pay a modest income, but whose contributions are invaluable.”
The Amazon Housing Equity Fund has made prior investments in Puget Sound including funding $185.5 million in low-rate loans and grants to King County Housing Authority to preserve affordability for 1,000 apartment homes and committing $100 million in low-rate funding to developers to help create and expedite the development of Sound Transit property offered for affordable housing. These latest commitments bring that figure to more than $310 million in loans and grants in the region to date.
Bellwether’s preservation strategy has targeted South King County, where the development of light rail and other commercial growth are pushing rents up faster than other parts of the region, and where immigrants, refugees and other lower income families are particularly vulnerable to displacement.
The financing for these acquisitions also included tax-exempt financing from CitiBank and equity investments from Bellwether Housing.