We rely on mass transit in Puget Sound to get around quickly, cheaply, and easily; but now Sound Transit is also helping with housing LGBTQ+ seniors 55 years and older in Seattle through a new construction project called “Pride Place.”
Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff and GenPride director Steven Knipp joined New Day NW to discuss this new development project on Capitol Hill, in partnership with Community Roots and GenPride, which may be the beginning of a new multi-faceted urban planning strategy for Puget Sound.
While public transportation is great for community mobility, it can also have a very strong gentrifying effect, Rogoff said. It can make the area much more attractive and desirable which has the effect of pushing up rents and pushing out local residents — the very residents who were just served with the new transportation.
The essential part of Sound Transit’s new strategy is not only to provide mobility to communities but to help keep those communities together and able to afford to live in those areas. It is also important to note that Sound Transit itself is not building the housing, he said.
“Our principal tool is to discount the value of property that we procure,” Rogoff said. “When we purchase property around a new transit stop, we have to purchase more property than we need to just construct the station.”
After completion, they make leftover land available on the open market at a discounted price rather than the fair market value if they can facilitate affordable housing on it, he said.
It is what Rogoff and Sound Transit describe as their “equitable transit-oriented development policy” which is intended to facilitate affordable housing construction near transit systems wherever it can. It’s one of the ways they’re able to make projects such as Pride Place possible. The land for Pride Place was discounted by about six million dollars.
The public transit agency is working on similar projects throughout Puget Sound. Currently, there are about 1,600 affordable housing projects throughout the region, Rogoff said. They’ve worked with a variety of partners that include non-profit affordable housing developers throughout the region and city governments. So far, they have been very successful with the Office of Housing in the City of Seattle which has the benefit of a housing levy that provides funding to subsidize affordable housing projects, which is not the case in many of the cities they work with.
As the light rail expands down to Federal Way, Lynnwood, and the east side, they are encountering different situations with social service providers and housing funders in the effort to keep some of the housing affordable, he said.
Pride Place will be located on Broadway on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine. The eight-story, 118-unit apartment building will have a ground floor whose anchor resident is GenPride, an organization that will provide social services and activities for the community, Knipp said.
He said the Pride Place project comes at a time when it is greatly needed. The community of Capitol Hill, Seattle’s historically LGBTQ+ neighborhood, has been greatly displaced in recent decades with the growth of the city.
Beyond the issue of communities being scattered, in the case of Pride Place, LGBTQ+ seniors have a great need for social services. As the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported, Pride Place will focus on outreach efforts to combat isolation among LGBTQ+ seniors who are more likely to live in poverty, face a higher risk of illness, are less likely to have the support of children or family, and often face discrimination as well as lack of culturally competent care.
Although it is not the first project of its kind in Washington, there are only a handful of projects of a similar nature sprinkled around the U.S. that focus on housing that affirms LGBTQ+ elders, Knipp said.
“It’s hard to really describe how exciting this is,” he said.