HDC Member Highlight: Byrd Barr Place

The ever-changing Seattle is in the midst of an economic boom and rapid growth, but has concurrently created mass displacement due in large part to job growth, high capacity transit, and the resulting skyrocketed cost of living. In the Central District, the changing demographics are pushing out Black households that have lived in the area for generations. The rapidly gentrifying Seattle neighborhood is now home to less than 18 percent of Black residents. In the 1970s, more than 73 percent of the Central District’s residents were Black.

But there is one organization with roots so deep in the neighborhood that it is preserving the Black culture and community from within.

Byrd Barr Place, located in the heart of the Central District, is a true community-based organization aimed at preserving the community through advocacy and social assistance services. Born during the Civil Rights Movement, Byrd Barr Place is over 56 years-old, and upholds itself as a historically Black organization. The organization got its beginnings as a result of redlining in the Central District, acting as a social service hub for the community. Their vision of social equity began to grow more partnerships and expand services. Its mission was to address issues of race, class, and poverty so prevalent in the 1960s, and that mission and value remains today.

What Byrd Barr Place is today to the Central District community is an offshoot of what they have been since the Civil Rights Era: basic safety-net services. Take the Byrd Barr Place food bank, which has expanded its walk-in food bank and created grocery drop-off services. In doing so, they provide nutritious food to working people with limited income right to their doorstep.

While Byrd Barr Place is not a houser, it works to keep people housed. They provide eviction prevention to pay resident’s back-rents. At the same time, Byrd Barr Place works with partner organizations who are housers, case managers, and wrap-around services providers, like Urban League, to ensure people stay in their homes. Their flagship Energy and Heating Assistance Programs can help eligible households keep their lights and heat on during the winter months. These programs help pay for electricity bills and heating tank refills to support healthy housing in their community.

In collaboration with fellow HDC member, Capitol Hill Housing, Byrd Barr Place was a pivotal partner in the national award-winning Liberty Bank Building. The building includes 115 units of affordable housing for households earning between 30 and 60 percent of area median income. The multi-use space will predominantly serve the Black community, 87 percent of the building units are leased by Black households. The commercial space will host Black-owned businesses. The partnership with Liberty Bank is grounded in racial justice as the historic bank was the first Black-owned bank West of the Mississippi. As Executive Director Andrea Caupain Sanderson explains, “The Liberty Bank Project is just one example of a number of properties that stake our claim to Black presence and culture in the city.”

Andrea continued to explain that civic engagement right now means combatting displacement through housing and economic stability. There can be a cynicism that comes with working in social services because there is always more need than resources. At times, advocating for issues with stakeholders isn’t fruitful. But that isn’t what Andrea sees every day. Byrd Barr Place’s proximity and presence in the Central District inspires plenty to be hopeful for. She sees humanism, working together as a community. She witnesses people drop off bags of groceries to the food bank on their way home from the store. She sees people that have used their food bank come back and volunteer their time. She sees lasting reciprocal partnerships – with residents, organizations, and businesses.

Looking forward, Byrd Barr Place is continuing to underscore its mission in supporting healthy homes, with their report Equitable Future in Washington State: Black Well-Being & Beyond. The report examines racism and inequity that have deeply impacted our state’s Black families and community, and encourages collaborative solutions. Created through partnerships with the Washington Commission on African American Affairs and the African American Leadership Forum, the report assesses the barriers to success in Washington’s Black community, especially access and quality of education, housing, employment, and healthcare.

Along with the report, Byrd Barr Place’s food bank is looking into ways to provide more fresh produce and less preserved/processed food, and even health-specific bags for chronic illnesses. In doing so, they are working with local farmers and grocers to obtain these expensive products that low-income residents may not have access to.

This year, Byrd Barr Place is also looking forward to the launch of a capital campaign to help modernize their 112 year-old building. Currently, the organization is negotiating the transfer ownership of its building from the city by mid-summer. While the building has a warm and welcoming interior, space will need a major upgrade to become ADA compliant and ensure it is earthquake safe. With an organization so grounded in place and belonging, they are excited to use this opportunity to expand their meeting spaces, which are open to all residents to use as a place to gather.

Andrea admits, like any other organization, there are bumps in the road but there is a lot of gratitude and kindness that grounds her work and Byrd Barr Place. As an organization, their presence in Seattle is as undeniable as their focus in creating a sense of belonging where Black people find a safe place to live, worship, learn, and play in the Central District.


Thank you, Compass Housing Alliance!

We appreciate the generosity of our member, Compass Housing Alliance! In the Lutheran tradition of caring through service, Compass Housing Alliance develops and provides essential services and affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in the greater Puget Sound region.

Their upcoming development, Compass Broadview, will bring Compass’s unique, personal housing model to the Broadview neighborhood. Compass Broadview will provide 59 units of mixed-use permanent affordable housing on Greenwood Avenue North. Like their other projects, this development will house individuals, families, and people with disabilities earning 50% and 30% Annual Median Income. In addition, 29 units are designated for individuals or families earning at or below 30% AMI.

Built on land purchased from Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, Compass Broadview will be a welcoming home to many families. As with our other affordable housing programs, Compass Broadview will welcome families and individuals across a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Thank you for supporting HDC along with this effort!

Exemplary Building Program Wall Guidelines Are Now Available

In October of 2019, the Exemplary Building Task Force met with stakeholders in the design and construction community in a workshop to develop several simple and cost-efficient common wall assembly designs that would work well in our region, while meeting the performance requirements of the Exemplary Building Program. From this meeting, we have developed some brief Design Guidelines for these wall assemblies to assist with early design and pricing efforts for Exemplary Buildings and have made them available for use by all.

The guidelines can be found on HDC’s Exemplary Building Program website.

As it turns out – these walls are not too different from current construction practice, and only a small step further than the requirements of the forthcoming 2018 Washington State Energy Code. This is a good indicator that the changes needed to construct Exemplary Buildings are realistic and incremental.

Shout-out to SHAG!

A major thank you to our member, Sustainable Housing for Ageless Generations! Also known as SHAG, this non-profit formed nearly three decades ago in order to provide a sustainable lifestyle for seniors. SHAG builds stable housing and creates communities.

Their most recent development plans include Legacy Plaza, which intends on being a mixed-use building, offering 166 units of independent-living apartments for retired seniors, designed to suit various income levels above commercial space and a subterranean parking garage. Residents of the one- and two-bedroom apartments will enjoy residential amenities, such as full kitchens tricked out with dishwashers, oven ranges, refrigerators and washer dryer hookups, full bathrooms, and for select units, roll-in showers. Common spaces are to include social rooms, a library business center, a media room, a fitness center, and a lobby.

Legacy Plaza is granted through the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. As a part of the financing, SHAG had the opportunity to donate to a nonprofit and selected HDC. By donating to our work, SHAG recognized HDC as a systems change organization working through advocacy, education, and leadership to ensure a landscape where affordable housing development is a priority, especially for senior living needs. Legacy Plaza will be a community that exemplifies SHAG and HDC’s shared vision for a King County where everyone lives with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

12th Annual HDC Celebration Award Nomination

In celebration of our members’ efforts toward increased, sustainable, and healthier affordable housing options, we will convene HDC membership, local and state elected officials, supporters, and friends for the 12th Annual HDC Celebration on March 25.

In addition to celebrating our collective work, we like to recognize those organizations and/or individuals who have been outstanding champions of HDC’s mission and have made an important impact in the community and affordable housing sector.

In the coming weeks, HDC will convene an award committee to review nominations and recommend awardees to our Board of Directors. This year, we are asking our membership for nominations of individuals, organizations, or public/government agencies, for the following awards:

The Carla Okigwe Award: In honor of the vision and leadership of HDC founding Executive Director, Carla Okigwe, a special award is occasionally given. Individual recipients are chosen for their exemplary contributions to the affordable housing movement and a clear commitment to bettering the lives of those struggling and the communities in which they live.

The Municipal Champion Award: This award recognizes an elected or appointed public official or city/county department/entity, which through exemplary leadership has made exceptional contributions to the state of affordable housing in our community.

Please fill out the nomination form, including information on your nominee, to the best of your ability.

Nominations are due February 7, 2020

Thank You, Mercy Housing Northwest!

We appreciate our member, Mercy Housing Northwest, which owns and operates 54 properties throughout Washington and Idaho, providing over 5,000 families and seniors a place to call home at below-market rent.

Mercy Housing’s Magnuson Place North includes 40 affordable, energy-efficient one, two, or three-bedroom apartments. In developing this property, Mercy restored the former US Naval Barracks at Building 9 in Magnuson Park to create this one of a kind community surrounded by open space, playgrounds, sports fields, and access to Lake Washington.

Furthermore, Magnuson Place benefited from the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. As a part of the financing, Mercy had the opportunity to donate to a nonprofit and selected HDC. By donating to our work, Mercy recognized HDC as a systems change organization working through advocacy, education, and leadership to ensure a landscape where affordable housing development is a priority. Magnuson Place is just one example of Mercy Housing’s innovative and collaborative approach to affordable housing and shared vision for a King County where everyone lives with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

Program Recap: Undoing Racism Workshop by the People’s Institute

For many of us, specifically white folx, it’s hard to talk about racism; however, the inability to engage in difficult discussions and anti-racist work does not change the reality or impact of structural racism on Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC).

Choosing to be complacent isn’t a privilege that’s awarded to marginalized communities. In fact, to bring about sustainable and effective change, white folx must work to shift power structures and center the voices and needs of BIPOC. Before doing that, they must first examine and understand the history of racism and the harm it’s caused and continues to cause communities of color.

This past November, HDC hosted a two-day training presented by the People’s Institute, as part of our Race, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative. Through dialogue, analysis, and reflection, our members developed a common definition of racism and an understanding of the historical context for how racial classifications in the United States came to be and how and why they are maintained.


Read what some of our members had to say about the Undoing Racism Workshop:

“This training was one of the best anti-racism trainings I have attended. It deepened my understanding of racism in this country and transformed my perspective on effective ways to eliminate racism.” 

“This training is the foundation necessary for any work within communities.” 

“The content was incredibly informative and thought-provoking. In housing and urban design contexts, this course was helpful for my day-to-day design work.” 

“I am responsible for the house in which I live but did not build.” 

“I’ve been involved in different aspects of the affordable housing industry for 20 years – this has changed everything for me.” 

“Enlightening and empowering” 

 “You cannot do this work alone. This was hard for me to hear as I tend to rely & depend on myself majority of the time, asking for help in this area is difficult, leaving me vulnerable.” 


As housing experts, it’s important for us to understand the impact of structural racism, redlining, home-buying and credit access, how it’s contributed to gentrification and displacement throughout King County and across the nation. Additionally, it’s important for organizations to take lead from communities of color, who know how to best serve their own communities.

Anti-racist trainings do not change systems overnight, but for white folx to be effective allies/and accomplices, they must understand how they can use their power and privilege to level out the playing field.

HDC understands that this is lifelong work, and we are committed to advancing racial equity throughout our sector.  Thank you to our members who boldly leaned into this training, and we look forward to the next training on January 9th and January 10th. Please register here!

Seattle’s Fare Share Plan

HDC is extremely pleased to announce that the Seattle Fare Share Plan has been unanimously approved by the City Council on Monday. Mayor Durkan signed the cutting edge strategy into law on Tuesday, November 26th.

HDC is extremely proud to have partnered with over 60 organizations, that came together to encourage passage of this proactive legislation advancing workers’ rights, affordable housing near transit, and mobility options. The Fare Share Plan is an inspiring example of broad sectors coming together to create a more affordable, accessible, and equitable Seattle.

With Monday’s vote, Seattle’s Rideshare drivers are on a path to guaranteed living wages and a resolution center, while also providing desperately needed funding for transit and affordable housing.

Introducing Willowcrest

Willowcrest, a sustainable community land trust neighborhood, officially being developed by Homestead will be the first of its kind neighborhood in King County. The multi-unity homeownership program is both affordable to low/moderate-income households and designed to reduce utility costs and climate impacts. Located in Northeast Renton, the land for the project was provided by Renton Housing Authority.

In total, the 12 townhomes, of both three and four bedrooms, will achieve net-zero energy usage through highly efficient systems, construction, and the use of solar panels for onsite energy generation. The units are stocked with energy-efficient systems such as insulated hot water pipes and efficient pipe routing, thermal pane windows, three-zone ductless mini-split heating/cool systems. Not to mention, a significant portion of features are made from recycled materials, including quartz countertops from recycled stone cutting waste, recycled fiber cement siding, and cork-based flooring.

Willowcrest homes will be priced below $315,000. Through one-time investments that subsidize the initial price of Willowcrest homes, and through partnerships with homebuyers, Homestead will keep the townhomes affordable to all subsequent income-qualified homebuyers permanent. This means the 12 homes will give up to 80 households over the next 50 years the social, health, and financial benefits of an affordable, fixed housing payment in a quality home.

Commerce awards $4 million to 52 communities!

Introduced and passed in the 2019 Legislative Session, HB 1923 was intended to incentivize denser and more affordable communities. The bill proposed a grant program to fund housing action plans and city code changes to increase urban residential building. Since being signed into law in July, the Department of Commerce has been accepting grant applications cities and counties across the state.

We would like to applaud all the municipalities that took advantage of this opportunity, especially those in King County, to help our neighborhoods grow! King County grantees include Redmond, Shoreline, Auburn, Burien, Federal Way, Bothell, Covington, Kent, Tukwila, and Renton.

See the complete list of grantees here.