Top of the Town Goes Virtual

Capitol Hill Housing invites you to join us on the evening of June 25 for a virtual Top of the Town. This year the event will look a little different: Instead of holding it at the wonderful Hotel Sorrento as we have for the past decade, we are moving the event online. Historically, Top of the Town has been an exclusive event with a limited number of seats available. This year, as a result of hosting the event virtually, we are excited to be able to open registration to an unlimited number of guests. For the first time in over a decade of holding this event, Top of the Town is open to everyone with an interest in affordable housing and equitable development.

Although we are saddened that will we not be able to see everyone in person, we know this unprecedented situation has had much larger impacts on the daily lives of our neighbors. We are in the business of building homes, and our neighbors need our dedicated, focused support more than ever. Save the date on your calendar and stay tuned for more details!

Mental Health During COVID-19

Muguette Guenneguez is the executive director of NAMI Seattle, an affiliate of National Alliance on Mental Illness. Muguette sat down with us to talk about mental health in the time of COVID-19 and her collaboration with the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.

“There are no words to describe how impacted our communities have been by this crisis, from the youngest people to the oldest people,” Muguette said. “What is going to be normal? You don’t know. This uncertainty is taking a toll on everyone, and we want to be there for the community to offer support. We have trainings, workshops that we have available online for people and businesses for them to offer support to their staff, their colleagues.”

Muguette works to support her community every day, designing next steps and coordinating efforts to connect people with resources. Later this month, she will join the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict for their Community Tea series to promote ways individuals can take care of themselves during this crisis.

“I don’t have all the answers, but I think we need to shield our children from some of the information out there – maybe we need to shield ourselves from some of the information out there too,” Muguette said. “Take ten minutes to catch up on the news, and then walk away. Eat balanced diets; refrain from drinking too much. Connect with friends and family.”

Muguette also encourages families to make the most of this time together.

“Some families enjoy cooking together, some families enjoy playing board games together, some families enjoy watching movies together. Whatever it is, do it together,” Muguette said. “I would also say that it’s important to have those conversations with parents, friends, people you cannot see. It’s important to keep those relationships going. It’s also important to do the things that centered you before – whether it was meditation, whether it was praying – continue doing it within the confine of your home, if possible. Myself, I love to garden. Anytime I have a free moment, I rush to the garden because this is where I love to be. People have to do what’s best for them.”

NAMI was started in 1979 by Eleanor Owen. Today, 41 years later, it is an association with more than 800 affiliates. NAMI Seattle works in three focused areas: educating communities, offering support to those dealing with mental illness, and advocacy.

“Advocacy is quite important because in raising awareness and supporting people, we need our elected officials and the community at large to know how important it is to support all community members who are dealing with mental illness,” Muguette said. “People with mental illness can lead, actually do lead, very successful and fulfilling lives, but they need the support of the community for that to happen.”

NAMI Seattle has a variety of support groups that meet throughout the Seattle area. There are peer-to-peer groups; support groups for family members; and groups that highlight the voices, stories, and lived experiences of those who have mental illnesses.

“That people are talking about these issues, that might be the silver lining of this pandemic,” Muguette said. “They’re not necessarily saying the words ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety,’ but you can tell that this has affected them in a very emotional way. This is not the way we would have hoped to start the conversation, but we will take it from there.”

CHHF Board Gets New President

Margaret Pak Enslow has been appointed the new president of the Capitol Hill Housing Foundation Board. Margaret has been on the CHHF Board since 2015, and she was formerly the vice president of the board.

How did you get involved with Capitol Hill Housing?
I live in Capitol Hill, and I knew Capitol Hill Housing by reputation as a great organization; I was always hearing a lot of good things about it. At the time, I was involved in this organization called the Cal Anderson Park Alliance, and after collaborating with CHH on an event, I got more involved with Capitol Hill Housing and was invited to join the Foundation Board.

Affordable housing is obviously a prevalent issue in this city and many others, but what made you get involved with this particular issue and organization?
Housing and education are really important to me. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I always thought my dad just liked to move. That’s how I interpreted all the moving. But as I became older, I realized it wasn’t that. My dad didn’t like to move. Really what it came down to was, my parents were renters, and they were always trying to find cheaper rent in a good public school district. So we were always moving because of housing insecurity, and as an adult, I finally understood what was happening in retrospect. So housing is just very important to me, and Capitol Hill Housing is amazing because I know people who are residents there, and they don’t have to worry about their housing. They can focus on their family.

So your parents were always trying to find good public schools, and you became a lawyer. Can you talk about that journey?
Well, I always wanted to be a teacher, but my parents were like, “Oh, no, no, no, teachers don’t get paid enough money; you cannot be a teacher.” So I became a lawyer, which I enjoy very much, and then I also teach at Seattle Central. But yeah, my parents always emphasized education. As many immigrants do, my parents sought better opportunities for their children. So even though we were moving around a lot and didn’t have that stability, there was always this focus on getting a good education. In fact, that’s why we were moving so much.

So housing and education are inextricably linked for you.
Yeah, they are.

What do you see as the biggest housing issues facing Seattle?
I think it’s just getting more units. We need to get more units in the hands of affordable housing groups like Capitol Hill Housing.

What goals do you have as board president?
I feel so lucky because we have an amazing Foundation staff. I, as a lawyer, and as someone who did commercial litigation, am very goal-oriented, very capitalist mindset – I have learned a lot about how to just be open and trust the staff. When I have a very predictable question like “when is it gonna happen? What’s the cost-benefit analysis?” I really resist that because what I’ve learned over the years of being involved with this organization is that they really are doing things in a thoughtful way. That is critical when you’re dealing with people’s housing. So maximum efficiency is not the goal here. Even though I do wish for more affordable housing units, we can’t do it in a way that’s counterproductive with the goals of affordable housing. So my goal is really to support the staff, to offer my perspective, and really just support the mission work that we do.

Station House Apartments Available

Applicants can still submit a short form of interest for Station House apartments in the 60% Area Median Income limits and rent ranges. Previously, apartments were also available at the 30% and 50% Area Median Income levels; however, these have now been filled. To find out more about eligibility and the leasing process, follow the link below.

Join Us at the Capitol Hill Arts District Streaming Festival

Join us for the Capitol Hill Arts District Streaming Festival, April 29 to May 3. Presented by the Capitol Hill Arts District and Northwest Film Forum, the festival celebrates the creativity of Capitol Hill and offers community members a connection to interdisciplinary art during this unprecedented time. Northwest Film Forum will stream the festival simultaneously via Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook Live. The event will be free to all, though guests are encouraged to offer a donation on a sliding scale. All proceeds will go to the COVID-19 Artist Trust Relief Fund and will directly support individual artists. Explore the schedule, register, and learn more by following the link below.

Stormwater Matters: Here’s Why

The Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and the Seattle 2030 District have identified several areas in Capitol Hill that could be developed as stormwater retention sites.

In the Emerald City of the Evergreen State, there’s one green initiative that often gets overlooked: stormwater management. Stormwater is the runoff of rainwater and melted snow that directly impacts water quality. In a city that averages 38 inches of rain a year on a particularly hilly, impermeable topography, effective stormwater management becomes a pressing issue.

Rather than lament the perfect storm of factors that create this problem, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict teamed up with the Seattle 2030 District to effect change. Steven Fry, programs director for the Seattle 2030 District, works on sustainability concerns every day. According to Steven, a stormwater walking tour was a natural first step.

“We figured we would take it to the public, engage with them, see what features they liked, and get a better sense of where they wanted work to be prioritized in the neighborhood,” Fry said. “The intention of the walk was, ‘How can we reimagine space in Capitol Hill that is either underutilized or overlooked to improve community resilience and improve public space with the added goal of stormwater management?’”

A walk in any direction in Capitol Hill will plainly reveal the issue the EcoDistrict and Seattle 2030 are driving at: cement abounds. According to Fry, the number one way to combat stormwater is to keep the water on site – how it would behave in a natural setting. However, in an increasingly developed urban setting, it becomes difficult to identify viable opportunities for green space.

“The vast majority of people still don’t understand what stormwater is and why it’s an issue,” Fry said. “They just think it’s raining, and they’re like ‘Oh, bummer. It’s raining today.’ But what we want them to think about is: All this rain means that our sewer systems are likely overflowing right now, that there’s direct runoff that doesn’t even go into the sewer or just goes straight into the lakes.”

Stormwater is very pollutant heavy. Flowing through urban areas, the water picks up grease, oil, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, sediment – all the trappings of dense cities.

“These chemicals morph and evolve as they come into the water streams, and then that’s literally discharged straight into our waterways,” Fry said. “When you have a salmon corridor like we do, they’re swimming straight through all this water that’s very polluted, and it decimates salmon populations, so they can’t spawn, they just die. They lose all motor functions. And it’s just devastating to the salmon population, which is in turn starving the orcas because they don’t have enough food.”

Stormwater management has benefits that extend beyond preserving our salmon and orca populations. The utility of green space becomes multifaceted the further it’s examined.

“I think a very critical piece of this is that it isn’t just about stormwater,” Fry said. “Green space improves air quality; it reduces urban heat islands. It’s shown to improve the mental and physical health of the community. All of these features improve resiliency, especially as climate change impacts increase. Part of the goal of this is to make people realize how valuable these spaces are and what we can do to improve them and add more of them.”

The stormwater walk has been postponed, but Fry and EcoDistrict representatives remain optimistic that it will take place. Stay tuned for more details as the situation evolves.

Annual Meeting Postponed

The Annual Capitol Hill Housing Stakeholder Meeting will be rescheduled. In accordance with current social distancing measures, we will postpone our Annual Meeting, previously scheduled for Tuesday, April 21. Please keep an eye out for future correspondence from us later this year regarding the new date for the meeting.

CHH’s Annual Stakeholder Meeting is an opportunity to hear directly from Capitol Hill Housing leadership about the current state of the organization and what to expect in the coming year, followed by time for dialogue.

COVID-19 Resources for Residents

Here is a list of resources that are being offered to assist residents in response to COVID-19 (as of April 15, 2020).

Residents: Please read our latest letter that contains important information from CHH in regard to COVID-19. Here is a copy of an earlier letter from March 18 with some important information as well. Check out the email below to find resources for unemployment, food, utilities, health care, and links to relief funds.

Resources from the City of Seattle
For all resources from the City of Seattle, visit their COVID-19 Resources for the Community website for updates. This website is updated regularly.

Unemployment Resources
If you have lost your job due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Please visit the WA Employment Security Department website or call their claims center (800-318-6022) to see if you are eligible.

Food Resources
– Interactive Map with Seattle Area Food Resources
– Some schools will be feeding all Seattle Public Schools students Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the duration of the school closure. For more information, visit the Seattle Public Schools website
– Free groceries or meals at SODO Community Market.
– If you are currently enrolled in City-supported child care and food assistance programs, you are eligible for $800 in food vouchers. For more information, visit their FAQ webpage.
– COVID19 Mutual Aid and Solidarity Network has a online request form for food and supplies to be dropped off at people’s doors. Requests can be made through this online request form.

Health Care Resources
– In response to the potential growth of COVID-19 cases, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today announced a limited-time special enrollment period for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance.
– YMCA of Greater Seattle is offering virtual workouts.
– CHI Franciscan is offering free virtual urgent care visits for people experiencing mild Coronavirus symptoms with their coupon code “COVID19” visit the CHI Franciscan website for more information and to access their virtual appointment portal.

Utility Resources
– All SPU and SCL customers can set up deferred payment plans if their financial stability has been jeopardized by COVID-19. Utility service will stay on as their deferred payment plans are developed and implemented. Visit the City of Seattle website for more information.
– Comcast Internet Essentials Program is offering two free months of internet as a response to COVID-19. Residents can sign up for the program on the Comcast Internet Essentials Website.

For New Resources in Real Time
Follow these accounts/websites for real-time updates in resources and news:
King County Public Health – COVID-19
King County Public Health Twitter
Seattle Times – COVID-19 Resources
COVID-19 Mutual Aid Instagram
City of Seattle Resources

Personalized Resource Referral
Contact your Resident Services Coordinator to have a deeper conversation about resources for your unique situation.
– Azizza Mussa: 206-503-4638 |
– Derek Senior: 206-681-5553 |
– Demontrice Bigham: 206-471-1794 |
– Ji Soo Kim: 206-637-2364 |

Reinvesting in Our Buildings

The Bonanza project includes new exterior siding for two of the buildings as well as brick repairs on El Nor’s exterior (pictured above).

The CHH Bonanza project is the preservation and rehabilitation of the Ponderosa, El Nor and 18th Avenue buildings in the Central District. It embodies one of our most core tenets: Everyone has the right to a quality, affordable home. In some cases, those quality homes are produced not through new construction, but through a reinvestment in our existing portfolio.

By a complex refinancing of the El Nor, Ponderosa, and 18th Avenue buildings, CHH has been able to obtain $140,000 per apartment to go toward improvements. This reinvestment allows for a proactive retrofit of an Unreinforced Masonry Building as well as overwhelming cosmetic refurbishments to make these homes feel brand new. In addition to substantial seismic upgrades, all three buildings will now have new windows, roofs, and cabinets. The kitchens will have new countertops and appliances, and the bathrooms will have new shower heads and toilets. Each unit will also feature new measures in energy efficiency: LED lights are being installed, as are programmable thermostats and low-flow facets. The Ponderosa will even have a new rooftop solar array.

Rehab work began in 2019, and two of the three buildings are nearly complete. The Ponderosa and 18th Avenue buildings’ renovations will be completed next month, and El Nor’s improvements will wrap up in August.

The Bonanza project reflects an ongoing movement toward sustainable preservation. Improving existing built resources is not just environmentally friendly; it has a direct impact on the quality of life for the residents of these affordable homes. CHH is very proud of the work completed and can’t wait for residents to enjoy their safer, improved homes. 

Pictured above: The three buildings included in the Bonanza rehabilitation project.

Liberty Bank Building Celebrates One Year

On March 23, 2019, a child and a reverend hoisted up ceremonial giant scissors and cut the ribbon in front of Liberty Bank Building, marking the momentous opening of 115 affordable homes in the Central District. It has been one year since the building opened, and the community within remains as strong as the showing on the day of the ribbon-cutting.

Michelle Purnell Hepburn, community leader, is the daughter of one of the founders of Liberty Bank. Here she displays historic photos of the original building. Liberty Bank opened in May of 1968 at 24th and Union as the first black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1968 as a community response to redlining and disinvestment in Central Seattle, Liberty Bank operated in the Central District for 20 years. The bank provided essential financial services to people and businesses who were otherwise unable to obtain them. Liberty Bank represented resilience and empowerment and stood as an example of a community’s solution to systemic, institutional racism.
The Liberty Bank Building was a community-led development to address displacement in the Central District. A historically black neighborhood, the Central District was a hub for the African American and African diaspora communities that called it home.
The multi-story mural painted on the outside of the Liberty Bank Building was designed by Al Doggett.
The mural reflects the vibrancy of the spirit of the Central District.
Future residents sign an apartment lease.
A high school student sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the Liberty Bank Building ribbon-cutting ceremony. The song is the Black National Anthem, and some of the lyrics include “Lift every voice and sing, til earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty.”
Michelle Purnell Hepburn watches the proceedings of the ceremony.
Al Doggett, one of the lead curators of art in the Liberty Bank Building, embraces a friend at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Kristi Brown poses with her son and business partner, Damon Bomar. Their restaurant is under construction at the Liberty Bank Building. It builds off Kristi’s wealth of experience with her catering company, That Brown Girl Cooks!
Community members gather to celebrate the opening of LBB on March 23, 2019.
The Liberty Bank Building ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by over a hundred members of the community.
Esther Ervin and Al Doggett in the lobby of the Liberty Bank Building. The two co-curated the art collection inside and outside the building. The pieces pay homage to the history of the site, the original Liberty Bank, and the chronicle of the Central District. Photo by Kevin Scott.
Community members in the resident lounge at the Liberty Bank Building. Photo by Kevin Scott.
Earl Lancaster, owner of Earl’s Cuts and Styles, signs a lease with Christopher Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing for a new space at the Liberty Bank Building in the Central District. After nearly 30 years of business at 23rd and Union, the legendary barbershop moved across the street into the new building. Photo by Yosef Kalinko.
Earl’s Cuts and Styles officially opens in one of the commercial spaces at the Liberty Bank Building.
A recap video of the Liberty Bank Building ribbon-cutting ceremony.