Commerce invests $312.6 million in affordable housing and homeownership opportunities for Washington residents with low incomes
Historic funding to increase state’s affordable housing stock by 3,913 multifamily/rental units and new homes for low-income homebuyers
OLYMPIA, WA — The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced historic investments totaling $312.6 million to address the urgent need for affordable housing in communities throughout Washington state. Lack of affordable housing and sufficient supportive housing options for vulnerable populations are top contributors to chronic homelessness. It is estimated that over 1.1 million new housing units must be added across Washington state over the next 20 years to meet projected needs at all income levels.
“These investments are an important step forward to ensuring everyone has an affordable place to live and the dream of homeownership is possible for every hard-working family,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Because our Legislature went big on housing, thousands of families will benefit.”
Commerce is awarding $274 million to 48 projects that will result in 3,443 multifamily/rental housing units, including housing for people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness. Another $38.6 million will fund 25 projects that create homeownership opportunities for 470 first-time homebuyers with low incomes.
“Communities throughout the state face urgent needs around housing stability, affordability and preventing homelessness,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “We are committed to ensuring that this historic funding provided by the Washington Legislature, and through our federal agency partners, is invested to benefit those most in need for years to come.”
Fong emphasized the department’s focus on equity in funding: “My commitment is that our Commerce team is dedicated to equity and inclusion in all of our programs, and we welcome feedback on our work.” He noted that the department will continue to align its approach with the state Office of Equity definitions and best practices as they become available.
Commerce received 140 applications for state and federal funding in the fall 2023 round to develop affordable housing units and provide new homeownership assistance. Reviewers, including partner agencies and people with lived experience, conducted an extensive process in tandem with other public funders to make award determinations. The 73 awarded projects are distributed across all regions of the state.
Of the total units created by this funding, 1,038 will be reserved for residents who are homeless at entry. Sixteen of these projects will create a combined 554 permanent supportive housing units. Permanent supportive housing differs from emergency shelter or transitional housing in that it provides longer-term housing coupled with flexible voluntary services. These services are tailored to meet the individual needs of each person, including coaching, training and services to help them preserve independence and sustain tenancy, reducing the chances of falling into or returning to homelessness.
Contracts for this Commerce funding typically require housing units to remain in service for the intended use for decades – often 40-50 years. This means that many times more than the initial number of occupants of the units will be served over the life of these investments.
Allocations targeting multifamily housing
- 10 projects received $24.3 million set aside to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These projects will create 155 units of accessible housing reserved for low-income people with these disabilities across the state.
- 7 projects were funded with $58.6 million set aside for the Apple Health & Homes program, creating 144 units for Apple Health & Homes program participants and 354 total units of permanent supportive housing. AHAH is a multi-agency effort that pairs healthcare services with housing resources for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. The program is based in the concept that lack of housing is a social determinant of health, and individuals with disabling conditions such as medical, behavioral health, and physical impairments may not improve until their housing is stable.
- 5 projects received the first allocation of funds from a new transit-oriented development public-private partnership match program. Emphasizing projects already in the pipeline in dense, walkable communities, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and The Amazon Housing Equity fund partnered to provide $28.8 million that will advance 1,133 housing units.
“Creating affordable housing near transit and other services helps to serve the needs of low to moderate-income households,” said Senthil Sankaran, managing principal, The Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “Through this partnership with the State of Washington, our funds will help create affordable housing near transit, and in turn, create greater equity.”
- 11 projects were selected for $56.3 million in awards targeting rural communities.
“Rural communities face unique barriers that can jeopardize affordable housing projects, such as availability of low-income housing tax credits or other capital fund resources,” said Corina Grigoras, Commerce assistant director for housing. “As part of our commitment to support and build capacity locally, we have mobilized technical assistance providers to help spur more viable projects in these communities, and several of those announced today are a direct result from this work.”
“In addition to prioritizing equity in our investments, we strive to stretch state dollars as far as possible to help communities maximize affordable housing capacity,” Fong said.
In vetting projects for capital awards, Commerce seeks opportunities to leverage additional local, state, nonprofit and other funding sources. The total residential development costs represented in the awarded projects announced today is nearly $1.5 billion – or more than $5 for every $1 invested by Commerce.
Making the dream of homeownership more accessible
The $38.5 million in funds awarded for homeownership – the largest ever investment by this program – will fund new construction, down payment assistance, and affordability subsidies to create affordable homeownership opportunities for 470 first-time homebuyers with low incomes. These projects were selected from 48 applicants requesting just under $95 million, a significant increase from prior funding rounds.
“The impact of programs that encourage and support opportunities for working families to own a home is clear,” Fong said. “For every new homeowner, at least one rental unit is made available for a new household. Individuals build wealth and the community at large benefits from reduced housing insecurity and increased stability.”
The state Housing Trust Fund administered by Commerce invests through eligible entities to help people with low incomes secure the dream of homeownership via various models. These include down payment assistance, affordability subsidies, and acquisition and rehabilitation of existing properties. Homes funded through Commerce may only be sold or resold to households with incomes, adjusted by size, of less than 80% of the area median income in urban locations and 100% of the area median income for rural locations. Affordability of these homes remains secure for a minimum of 25 years.
Local governments, housing authorities, non-profit organizations, and federally recognized tribes are eligible to receive homeownership funding.
Since 1986, the Washington State Housing Trust Fund has invested more than $2 billion in capital funding and helped to build or preserve nearly 60,000 affordable housing units statewide.
For more information on how Commerce invests to address the challenges of affordable housing and homelessness in Washington state, including how to apply to the Housing Trust Fund, visit the Commerce website.