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SEATTLE - With some 9,300 employees, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is one of the smallest Federal agencies, dwarfed by behemoths like Health and Human Services or the Department of Defense.

HUD’s programs, though, pack a big punch, lots of ways in lots of places, on any given day at work in more than 90 percent of the neighborhoods across America.  Neighborhoods like South Lake Union just a few blocks from The Space Needle and just north of downtown Seattle.Aerial view of South Lake Union area

These days it’s sizzling. Long known for seaplanes landing and taking off, ferrying travelers to the San Juan’s, British Columbia an beyond, more recently  it’s become home to the headquarters of both Amazon and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  It’s a place where people want to work, live and play.

Which, of course, means that real estate’s booming.  And HUD’s part of that boom.  Visit, for example, the just-opened, 118-unit Stream Uptown at 708 Sixth Avenue North.  It’s a market-rate rental complex  with rents for a 500-square-foot, one-bedroom starting a $1,132 a month -- financed under the 221(d)4 issued by the Federal Housing Administration, a part of HUD.

An attractive building for sure,, but from the outside it might not look much different from others in the neighborhood.  It’s on the inside when you begin to see what’s really different about Stream Uptown.  It promises a  high-end lifestyle with low-impact living and, as what might be Seattle’s first “net zero” carbon building, it seems to deliver.

Its units have lots of sustainable features, says Multi-Housing News, like “Energy Star appliances, high-efficiency fixtures and environmentally friendly interior finishes.”  It uses reverse cycle chillers for heating, cooling and all its hot water needs.  The building provides bicycle storage, charging stations for electric cars and “access to Zipcar will help serve many residents’ travel and commuting needs.” 

And iit’s got trees, 600 of them, adds The Daily Journal of Commerce, planted in collaboration with Forterra’s 3C’s – Carbon Capturing Companies - initiative that help erase Stream Uptown’s carbon footprint..  All of which, explains Marc Angelillo, managing member of the developer Stream Real Estate LLC, “allowed us to fully mitigate the carbon footprint of the building.”

When a neighborhood gets hot, it’s usually bad news for those on fixed- or low- or no-incomes.  After years of calling it home, they’re priced- and, thus, pushed-out almost overnight.  But maybe not in South Lake Union.

Twenty or so blocks east from Stream Uptown there’s another just-opened  rental complex, the 81-unit Pat Williams Apartments, that was built with funding from the City of Seattle, the Washington State Housing Trust Fund and private investors via the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits. And, yes, HUD.    It’s the 13th building developed,  owned and operated by the Plymouth Housing Group, a non-profit founded by the Plymouth Congregational Church in 1980.

Like Stream Uptown, the Pat Williams Apartments are high-quality and energy-efficient.  Unlike Stream Uptown, though, not market-rate housing. Far from it, in fact, since it serves the kind of folks Plymouth’s always served – the homeless, the recently-homeless and the potentially-homeless, many of whom suffer from addiction and all of whom need, first and foremost, a roof over their heads. And half of the residents of Pat Williams Apartments will be homeless veterans who themselves in harm’s way for the rest of us.  Residents will pay no more than 30 percent of their income or about $200.about a month.

Will they fit-in in so hot a neighborhood? Seems so..  “It was strange at first to realize,” explains one homeless vet previously helped by Plymouth, ”that I am somewhere that I can put something down, go to the bathroom, come back, and it’s still there,”  With a sense of security back in his life, he adds, “I feel like I’m a person with potential.” 

Just like the neighborhood.  And HUD’s proud to be a part of it.

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