Staff Spotlight: Hassna Benyahya-Calhoun

As a site manager, Hassna serves 47 families across three CHH buildings – the 412, the Byron Wetmore, and Joe Black Apartments. As she tells it, there is no such thing as a typical day. Between overseeing properties, addressing resident concerns, and supervising vendors, her main priorities are accountability, community, and communication.

Key to her success is staying organized – coordinating care for the building, including cleaning and maintenance, is something she’s doing constantly. And while CHH has a 48-hour response policy, Hassna tries to respond to voicemail and email as soon as possible.

Having started at CHH as a front-desk housing assistant, Hassna wants residents of her buildings to know that she is working for them. She’s happy to listen, to make service referrals, and sees herself in partnership with residents. Ultimately, she hopes that folks feel a sense of home.

Partner Spotlight: Byrd Barr Place

Byrd Barr Place is located in old Fire Station #23.

CHH Resident Services is proud to partner with Byrd Barr Place, one of Washington’s oldest community organizations. Byrd Barr Place provides “essential human services to Seattle residents who are struggling to make ends meet”. Their programs include healthy food, personal finance, housing and energy assistance focused especially on emergency situations.

Resident Services staff refer CHH residents to Byrd Barr’s Home Delivery food program and frequently use their resource list to connect residents to services. Staff have coordinated eight LIHEAP Outreach events to sign CHH residents up for Byrd Barr’s Energy Assistance Program.

This great relationship yields smooth referrals, letting Resident Services staff know that they are directing residents to a caring and responsive agency. CHH is also partnering with Byrd Barr Place on our Rise Together capital campaign to raise funding for equitable development projects in the Central District, Capitol Hill, and White Center – including the renovation of Byrd Barr Place’s historic home, Fire Station 23 (pictured above).

Celebrating the End of School

CHH celebrated the end of the school year with celebrations at several of our buildings. Take a look below for a glimpse of the festivities!

It was a day of celebration!
There were skateboarding races – safety first!
The King County Library System was on hand to provide resources for summer.
Face-painting brightened everyone’s smile.
Starting the summer in style!

These events were created in partnership with Skate Like a Girl, FOCS, LeadSHOP, Girl Scouts, Youth in Focus, and GOKIC.

The Pageantry of Pride – Selected works by Kelly O.

If you missed seeing this solo exhibition by photographer Kelly O. during the Capitol Hill Art Walk, stop by the 12th Avenue Arts Gallery to take a look!

12th Avenue Arts Gallery
1620 12th Ave
Second Floor
Seattle, WA 98122

Artist Statement: I’ve lived in Seattle since 1998, relocating from Detroit, Michigan. I learned much about this city working 18+ years as a designer/writer/photographer at The Stranger newsweekly. In addition to The Stranger, my photographs have appeared online in The New York TimesHuffington Post, ABC News, XLR8R, and VICE. In print, I’ve been published in SPIN, Interview, UNCUTMojo, BUST Magazine, and Seattle’s City Arts. Previously showing work in Seattle art galleries Vermillion, Vignettes, Ghost Gallery, the Hard L, and Greg Kucera Gallery—in 2017, three of my photographs (of musician Tendai Maraire) were featured in a show at the Seattle Art Museum. This summer, I am doing an artist residency with #ShoutYourAbortion, and I’m excited to be one of the featured artists at Bumbershoot 2019. My pronouns are she/her, and I celebrate Seattle’s Gay Pride all year long. 

Partner Spotlight: GenPRIDE

Community meeting at GenPRIDE offices. Photo courtesy of GenPRIDE.

We’ve got some big news.

You may have heard that, in partnership with nine LGBTQ-serving organizations, we are building the first LGBTQ-affirming affordable housing for seniors in the Pacific Northwest. Guiding this effort is an Advisory Committee that includes Aging with Pride, Generations Aging with Pride (GenPRIDE), the Ingersoll Gender Center, LGBTQ Allyship, Country Doctor, Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center, POCAAN, the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), and Seattle Counseling Services.

The past six months have been busy as the Advisory Committee has navigated a site change to Broadway between Pike and Pine and the selection of a ground floor tenant: GenPRIDE. Focused on empowering older LGBTQ+ adults to live with pride and dignity, GenPRIDE promotes, connects, and develops innovative programs and services that enhance belonging and support, eliminate discrimination, and honor the lives of older members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The move to Broadway – originally, the building was to sit at the corner of 14th Avenue and East Union Street – brings better access to more amenities, including the Capitol Hill light rail station, and more visibility for the services that GenPRIDE and others will provide. If this project is funded by the Seattle Office of Housing this fall, we plan to break ground in December 2020.

With 90+ affordable apartments at 60% at or below area median income, a main goal of the project will be to create an anchor for a community at risk of displacement – one that provides health and social services to residents as well as community members not living on site. In addition to becoming its headquarters, GenPride will oversee space on the ground floor to serve community-determined needs.

“This housing project is significant for many reasons—the need for affordable housing is essential, especially for our LGBTQ elders. Many of us have been displaced to far-flung areas in the region where isolation and limited access to services creates more risk to our health and well-being,” says Steven Knipp, GenPRIDE’s Executive Director. “It is also important for us to reclaim Capitol Hill as the LGBTQ+ historic center—and placing this building right in the heart of the neighborhood sends a clear message that we are still here.”

Resident Spotlight: Miriam Pratt

Miriam Pratt (pictured with a purple scarf) at the Liberty Bank Building Ribbon Cutting. Photo courtesy of Carlos Imani / Africatown Media.

Miriam Pratt’s parents used to live at 17th and Yesler in the Central District when they first arrived in Seattle, less than 20 blocks from her east-facing apartment in the Liberty Bank Building – she loves watching the beautiful sunrises. Her father was civil rights leader Edwin T. Pratt, memorialized in the Pratt Fine Arts Center, Pratt Park, and, most recently, the Edwin Pratt Early Learning Center. She sees his name and picture by the elevator every time she comes home now.

The Pratts embodied a vision for equal housing, education, and employment, becoming the first Black family to live in Shoreline. 50 years ago, her father was assassinated at their home. Miriam was five years old.

She and her mother left Seattle and, in 1978 when her mother passed away, she moved back to Seattle for several years and then to Texas to live with her grandparents. She’s now living in Seattle for the first time since her childhood, putting the finishing touches on her new, never-before-lived-in home.

“It feels like a village,” she says. “We help each other out. We all work together. It’s a joy.”

Miriam remembers receiving a call from Sasha, a CHH Housing Assistant, asking if she was still interested in living in the Liberty Bank Building. She’d been on the waitlist. In fact, she had been staying with friends and family without a home of her own for a very long time. She imagined her parents were looking out for her.

For Miriam, the Liberty Bank Building is an opportunity to bring back a community disenfranchised by the oppressive systems and attitudes that her father fought against and that that persist today. Named after and located on the same site as the historic Liberty Bank, the first Black-owned bank west of the Mississippi, the building represents a legacy of community resilience in the face of systemic, institutional racism. It also creates opportunities for a bright future for its residents.

“The Liberty Bank Building is an example of what he would have liked to see being done,” she says.

For herself, she sees this moment in time as a chance for all people to “light the torch again” to make progress toward equality and civil rights for everyone.

CHH developed the Liberty Bank Building in partnership with Africatown Community Land Trust, Byrd Barr Place, and the Black Community Impact Alliance. Africatown CLT recently began community conversations about a new development right around the corner at 23rd and Union – Africatown Plaza. Miriam has been attending those meetings.

“I’ve met families who grew up in the Central District who can only stay because of Affordable Housing.” She’s committed to seeing more families stay in place and to welcoming displaced people back home.

In Development: Station House Update

Last June, we celebrated the groundbreaking for transit-oriented development above the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station. CHH will build 110 apartments affordable to households earning at or below 30%, 50%, and 60% of area median income in a mix of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units at the corner of 10th Avenue East and East John Street. The building is being built with a goal of reaching a LEED Platinum standard and will also include a 1,409 square foot community room. CHH plans to complete the framing of the top story on this, our 50th building, during the week of May 20th.


  See below for an animated look at the evolution of Station House since June!

Photos courtesy of Charles Hall. GIF by Yiling Wong.

Partner Spotlight: Q&A with A-P Hurd

Recently, CHH Housing Development Associate Charles Hall sat down with A-P Hurd, President of SkipStone, a consulting firm that provides real estate and planning services to private and public clients. She is the former president of Touchstone, a real estate development company that built nearly 3 million square feet of office, retail, hotel, and residential space between 2007 and 2017 and won the national Developer of the Year award in 2016. With our real estate team, she has been developing a model for alternative financing which could make the creation of affordable housing less dependent on government funding. Earlier this month, she gave the keynote speech at CHH’s Top of the Town dinner.

Q: What do you think are some common misconceptions about developers and the kinds of changes that occur when cities grow and neighborhoods transform? What would you want people to know about this work?

A: In a growing city, developers are the people who create capacity for new arrivals. For many people who don’t like that their city is growing (and therefore changing), it’s easy to blame developers. But the reality is that development is a consequence of population and job growth, not the cause.

Human migration is the biggest cause of urban growth in places like Seattle. Regional migration for economic reasons is an even bigger demographic force in the US than immigration, but people talk about it a lot less. There’s a lot of “good liberals” in Seattle that are pro-immigration but anti-growth in Seattle—however, the people coming to Seattle from other parts of the country are driven by the same search for economic opportunity as immigrants. So why shouldn’t we make room for them?

We talk a lot in Seattle about “preserving neighborhood character”, but that may be less important than housing everyone who needs it in our region and doing so in a way that is transit-connected to areas of economic opportunity. If you’re a good liberal, that should be the biggest goal of all.

Still, developers make a convenient bogeyman when people aren’t feeling brave.

Q: Last fall, the Seattle Office of Housing received more than $250 million in applications for housing but had only $40 million in its coffers. That seems to indicate great need as well as great motivation on the part of developers to build affordable housing. Tell us more about why helping Capitol Hill Housing is important to you and why a market rate commercial real estate developer might be a good partner?

A: Capitol Hill Housing is one of the most innovative affordable housing providers in the region. I love that CHH thinks big and thinks about environment and housing. CHH also thinks creatively and systemically about problems and gets things done.

In fact, the workforce housing project that we are working on together recognizes the need for housing at all price points and the importance of getting housing into production quickly. We’re hoping to come up with private sector capital strategies that can build workforce housing (80-90% of average median income) in larger volumes in the hands of an experienced non-profit like CHH, and get it built faster than we might otherwise be able, given the limited availability of public funds for a traditional non-profit capital structure. If we can do something replicable, it will be a huge win.

Q: Do you have a life philosophy that ties to the work you do?

A: Hmmm. Yes, but haven’t boiled it down to 200 words yet. How about this:  Be kind, be myself, think in systems, own the problems and work them, and live like someone who’s only got one planet.

Q: Describe an ideal developer in three words.

A: Creative, empathetic, realistic.

Press Release: SCIDpda leads new development for 158 apartments for Yesler family housing

March 25 – The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), and Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) announced a joint venture to develop 158 apartments of affordable homes for working families in a location near Yesler, Little Saigon, and the Central District.

The majority of the residential units in the development will be two- to four-bedroom units in order to address the growing need for housing for medium- and large-sized families. Additionally, the development will include an 8,000 square-foot child care/early-learning center to be operated by the Denise Louie Education Center. It will also feature units that can be licensed for in-residence operation of childcare. Other amenities will include common areas for resident gathering and activities; exterior courtyards for the child care/early learning center and community gardens. One thousand square feet of the portion of the building facing Yesler Avenue will be dedicated to community-based commercial/retail services. Thirty-nine parking stalls will serve housing residents and childcare center staff. The project is expected to be completed in 2021, and is the first new construction developed by SCIDpda since 2004.

Read more in our joint press release.