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KCHA acquires Northwood square in Auburn

For the Reporter

As part of a statewide initiative to preserve federally subsidized rental housing, the King County Housing Authority completed the purchase on Dec. 2 of four Section 8 "expiring use" properties in King County, including Northwood Square, a 24-unit complex that houses low-income families with children in Auburn, 529 8th St NE.

The other properties acquired by KCHA are Patricia Harris Manor in Redmond (41 units of senior housing), Bellevue Manor in Bellevue (66 units of senior housing) and Vashon Terrace on Vashon Island (16 units of family housing). Together, the four properties serve 107 seniors and 40 families with children.

"Preserving existing subsidized housing is the most cost-effective way to maintain the supply of affordable rental apartments," said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority. "Thanks to the support of King County, we have been able to protect 147 low-income households from being forced from their homes – and at the same time, have preserved these crucial local housing resources for the long term."

The preservation of these complexes is important because of the populations they serve and the federal funding they leverage.

The Section 8 contract preserved through the acquisition of Northwood Square provides about $190,000 in annual rent subsidies, keeping this housing affordable to low-income families.

Nineteen children live at the complex; eight households have a family member with special needs. The average annual household income is approximately $14,000.

Demand for housing affordable to low-income families greatly surpasses the supply and the need is growing. In King County, virtually no market rate rental units are affordable to families earning 30 percent of the area median income ($23,400 annually for a family of three) or less. Stable, affordable housing prevents homelessness and plays a key role in healthy child development, successful educational outcomes and family well-being. The Auburn School District reported 144 homeless students during the last school year, up from 128 the year before, and classroom instability is a growing challenge in local schools.

The complex is well-sited, with access to public transportation, shopping and other community amenities.

King County is assisting in the acquisition through the provision of $1 million to fund fire safety and handicapped accessibility repairs and upgrades in all four complexes. Work is scheduled to start later this month.

"Children need safe and stable housing to be able to grow and succeed," said King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. "Rental housing communities like Northwood Square must remain affordable to local families and particularly families with children. I'm proud to have worked with my colleagues on the county council to help deliver the funding necessary to preserve this housing in Auburn."

Between 1965 and 1990, the federal government subsidized private developers to build and operate rental housing for low-income families as well as disabled and elderly households living on fixed incomes. These developers executed long-term rental subsidy agreements under the Section 8 program. The initial Section 8 contract on Northwood Square has already expired; a subsequent short-term contract renewal expires on Oct. 26, 2014. The current owner, who was also the initial developer and long-term owner of the property, worked with the housing authority to assure the long-term preservation of these apartments as affordable housing.

The entire portfolio of nine subsidized properties was put on the market as an "all or none sale" by the seller. KCHA is acting as lead purchaser on behalf of four other local housing authorities in preserving the five properties situated outside of King County. The combined purchase price for the portfolio is $28.7 million. The housing authority is using tax-exempt debt to finance the purchase. These properties will continue to be managed by Westwood Management, the current property manager of the complexes.

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