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Affordable housing in Federal Way is 'deteriorating quickly'
By federal standards, affordable housing costs no more than 30 percent of the household’s income to maintain.
Many people envision affordable housing as low-income, ill-maintained sites that are not enjoyable to live in, said Lynnette Hynden, Federal Way human services manager.
Federal Way has affordable housing to meet its current needs, Hynden said. The problem is, much of it is more than 20 years old and deteriorating. The city needs more renovation of current housing. In most cases, renovation is more affordable than building from scratch, Hynden said.
“South King County really needs to support and encourage that affordable rehabbing and restructuring of (existing housing),” she said. “It’s here. It’s just deteriorating and deteriorating quickly.”
On March 2, roughly two dozen individuals with expectations of learning more about the city’s affordable housing options boarded a bus and embarked on a two-hour tour of Federal Way.
The affordable housing tour was coordinated by the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County. Similar tours were held last year in other South King County cities.
The goal was to get representatives — city policy makers, land use commissioners, human services commissioners, city staff members, non-profits and housing providers — from all sides of the affordable housing issue on one bus. The participants learned more about Federal Way’s existing affordable housing, the city’s future needs and how collaborative work among the represented agencies can help ensure residents have a safe and affordable place to live in Federal Way.
“There is often this small scope of what people understand is affordable housing,” said Karen Williams, Housing Development Consortium policy director.
The tour expanded that scope. The group visited and discussed a handful of affordable housing complexes. Stops included the Westway neighborhood, Southridge House apartments, Villa Capri apartments and Appian Way apartments. The group heard presentations about FUSION (housing for women and children) and Senior City, senior housing located next to the Federal Way Transit Center.
Providing affordable housing is essential to avoiding homelessness and distraught communities, Williams said. The issue can seem overwhelming. But Federal Way has the ability to ensure its inhabitants can afford housing, Williams said.
“We clearly have the tools and resources in the community to achieve solutions,” she said.
The first stop was in the Westway neighborhood. The neighborhood, located off 21st Avenue Southwest at Southwest 333rd Street, was known for its violence and unsafe living conditions a decade ago. Criminal activity was prolific and once included a landlord who coerced female residents by threatening to get their Section 8 benefits taken from them if they refused to have sex with him.
In 2001, AmeriCorps stepped in. Members talked to residents in Westway and built trust. With help from police, the landlord faced criminal punishment for his actions. AmeriCorps, meanwhile, started after-school and summer programs for Westway kids. From 2004 to 2010, Habitat for Humanity Seattle/ South King County repaired 26 Westway homes and revamped the playground with help from non-profit KaBOOM!.
Today, Westway residents take pride in their homes, AmeriCorps director Monda Holsinger said. But more work is needed. A handful of homes were foreclosed in recent years. They stand empty and deteriorating. Habitat for Humanity is working to purchase some of the homes and renovate them.
The vibrant orange and yellow siding of the Southridge building, 30838 14th Ave. S., is hard to miss. The subsidized housing from King County Housing Authority serves senior citizens and disabled people.
It received a facelift not long ago with help from federal stimulus money. The rehabbing addressed deterioration of the building and upgraded facilities. It was much needed, as little money had been available to restore, maintain and operate public housing in the past decade, said Rhonda Rosenberg, King County Housing Authority Director of Communications, at the time of the rehab in January 2010.
The 86-unit Villa Capri, located at South 286th Street and Military Road, used to be a drug haven. The landlord invested next to nothing into maintaining the apartment complex — and it showed. Crumbling walls and mold contributed to unhealthy living conditions.
Federal Way’s Multi-Service Center (MSC), using multiple funding sources, purchased the site and rehabilitated it. The process required partners and was not a seamless task.
“It’s not as simple as just fixing up a complex,” said Manuela Ginnett, MSC housing program director. “You have to work on the community as well.”
Appain Way, with its polished exterior, squeaky-clean interior and integrated programs for residents, surprised at least a few on the housing tour. Several commented on how nice the property looked.
In December 2009, the apartments were renovated with a variety of financing sources. The process brought updated apartments, a new playground and a community gathering room. Now, children of various ages come to Appian Way daily to participate in enriching programs.
The Kent apartment complex, located in the Federal Way School District, is owned by Mercy Housing Northwest. Local service providers, school districts, regional health care systems, religious communities, developers and non-profits were all partners in rehabilitating Appian Way. Many partners are still onboard, offering a variety of services such as case management and summer lunch programs to residents.
“It’s a challenging property,” said Sibyl Glasby, Mercy Housing Northwest associate director of real estate development.