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Affordable TOD Mercy Othello Plaza opens to residents

The 108-unit affordable housing development is across from a light rail station

Courtesy of Mercy Housing Northwest

Othello Plaza, an affordable, transit-oriented development (TOD) by Mercy Housing Northwest (MHNW) and Sound Transit, officially opened its doors over the weekend.

The public-private partnership is across the street from the Othello light rail station, and provides 108 energy-efficient units for households earning from $18,000 to $55,000 per year.

Sixty percent have more than one bedroom so they have enough room for families: 53 two-bedroom units and 10 elusive three-bedroom units.

The building is also the brand-new home for MHNW with 7,500 square feet of office space, plus a 2,000-square-foot community center.

Multiple studies show that property values increase around transit—and it’s been especially true of Seattle’s light rail. On the other hand, a Pew Research study in 2014 found that people who are lower-income, black or Hispanic, immigrants, or under 50 are more likely to regularly ride transit.

Developments like Othello Plaza help walk that difficult balance: How do we make sure that transit serves people who need it without driving them out?

“Mercy Othello Plaza shows how we can leverage the opportunity of affordable, high-capacity transit by building affordable housing near Link light rail stations,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine at Othello Plaza’s dedication.

Sound Transit 3, approved by voters in November, created the Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI), which commits $21 million to low-interest loans for affordable developments sited within one-half mile of a light rail station or one-quarter mile of a frequent-service bus stop.

The first round of REDI financing is expected to build 500 to 700 affordable units—not even half of the 2,100 lottery entries for a spot at Othello Plaza. Still, it’s a dent.

REDI isn’t the only way Sound Transit is building affordable housing; Othello Plaza is the third TOD on land acquired by Sound Transit for affordable housing. Their first is a development for seniors near the Federal Way Transit Center in 2010; the second, Artspace’s Mt. Baker Lofts near the Mt. Baker station, opened in 2014.

An upcoming big project for Mercy is also close to light rail. A seven-story building with space for 95 homeless and low-income families will be located just a couple of blocks from the Mt. Baker station in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the City of Seattle.