Collaboration between a Bellevue church and a local nonprofit might have secured homes for dozens of Eastside families in the near future.
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, located on Bellevue Way Northeast, is working with Imagine Housing and Red Vines 1 to construct 30Bellevue, a 62-unit affordable housing building which will sit just behind the church.
That last fact is no accident. St. Luke’s sold its property to Imagine Housing, replacing a seldom-used parking lot with a housing complex that could shelter more than 200 Bellevue residents at well-below market rate.
Pastor Mark Griffith said the process had been ongoing for months, before he even arrived at the St. Luke’s position.
“It’s been a mutual conversation for a long time. Imagine Housing itself was birthed out of a Lutheran congregation,” he said. “The people here at St. Luke’s have been interested in finding ways to mitigate or look at solutions to the problems of poverty.”
St. Luke’s already rents its basement to The Sophia Way’s Sophia’s Place, a day-center and shelter for homeless women.
According to data based on the 2016 minimum wage, a person would have to work 127 hours at minimum wage ($9.47 per hour) to afford a market-rate, one-bedroom apartment in Bellevue (affordable being defined in this scenario as 30 percent of income). At twice the minimum wage ($18.94 per hour), it takes 64 hours to make a one-bedroom “affordable” at market rate of $1,616 per apartment.
30Bellevue plans to offer studio apartments, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for residents making 30, 40 and 60 percent of the area median income. According to Imagine Housing data, area median income in King County for one person is $63,210 and $72,240 for a two-person household.
The project hopes to begin inviting residents by winter of 2018.
Griffith said his congregation had seen the dark side of Bellevue’s real estate boom.
“With the statistics of home values and rent going up, affordability goes down,” he said. “We’ve seen the stories of people who, by all accounts, work good jobs and can’t afford to live near their jobs. I’ve taken to calling them economic exiles.”
Affordable housing is a priority for city government in Bellevue, but the market is still in a crush for those making less-than-average wages. More than 34 percent of all households in East King County pay more than 30 percent of their incomes to rent, according to A Regional Coalition for Housing, making them “burdened” by rent.
Imagine Housing data paints the picture of who needs affordable housing. Seniors on a fixed income can only “afford” rent of $402 a month, less than a third of the market rate studio rent in Bellevue. For baristas or low-wage jobs making $20,000 or less, rent above $500 is officially unaffordable. For new teachers, apartments are affordable only at $1,300 a month or cheaper, well below a one-bedroom price.
In a community survey filled out by more than 900 residents this summer, more than 79 percent of respondents favored funding options allowing seniors to stay in their homes and neighborhoods.
Sixty-three percent favored investments in city infrastructure that reduces costs for affordable housing developments and 59 percent supported requiring developers to include affordable units with multi-family developments.
30Bellevue is planned to be built as an Evergreen energy efficient building, with nearby access to employers and transportation.
“I’m so grateful for the community support,” Griffith said. “We are really excited to be whatever portion of the solution we can be.”