Some 130 affordable housing units will be available for low- and medium-income families in Redmond once the Esterra Park development is completed.
The complex will be located in the Overlake neighborhood south of the Microsoft headquarters and is slated for construction beginning in 2019 with leases being offered in 2021.
Villette Nolon is the executive director for Imagine Housing, an organization that promotes the creation and preservation of affordable housing in Washington.
“It’s really an expansive way to transform the Eastside and transform this community in Redmond,” she said of affordable housing. “Most developers are building luxury buildings because there’s an appetite for that and a profit to be made.”
The whole Esterra complex will have more than 2,000 apartments and has been in the works for around four years.
The 130 affordable housing units will begin at 30 percent of the area median household income and scale up to 60 percent.
This creates a much more realistic housing income grade for workers in the area.
While the state’s minimum wage is $11.50, the median household income in King County as of 2015 was $75,302, according to county statistics.
As defined by government regulations, housing can be classified as affordable if it sits at or below 80 percent of the median income, or $60,242 annually per household.
For a single-parent family, that means they would have to be making nearly $29 an hour to be able to rent an “affordable” unit.
Most service jobs pay at or slightly above minimum wage.
By setting income brackets for the 130 affordable housing units in Esterra, Nolon said she hopes to help more families that work in Redmond be able to afford to live here too.
“It’s not just open to anybody, it’s open to people who are low-income people,” she said.
The Esterra development would be one of the largest truly affordable housing developments on the Eastside, she said.
It will have amenities like an on-site YMCA-operated child care facility, shopping options, green space, a rooftop garden and offices.
It could benefit lower-wage workers like those in retail and hospitality, as well as firefighters and teachers.
“For a lot of people, living on the Eastside is extraordinarily difficult,” Nolon said.
The importance of helping people stay in the community where they work has far reaching benefits, including curbing traffic by reducing or eliminating commutes.
There’s also an issue of equity.
As cities become more expensive they should not become inaccessible to lower-income families.
Mixed-income housing helps keep lower-income families closer to services and a local community, Nolon said.
“You can’t create a community where it’s a one, big, great gated community,” she said.
Affordable housing, such as the Esterra development, also helps prevent people from becoming homeless.
According to city data, roughly 32 percent of all jobs in Redmond pay less than $50,000 a year while the average monthly rent last year was $1,845.
The city has been a good partner too, Nolon said, with support coming from the mayor’s office and staff.
The last year passed a measure that offers a tax credit for developers who create affordable housing units.
It is unclear whether it will be effective in bringing more affordable development into the city.
This will likely become more important as the county’s population continues to grow.
Projections from King County expect there to be some 2.7 million people living in the county by 2040, up from 2.05 million in 2015.
In addition to the housing units, the Esterra development will have 1.2 million square feet of office space, a 3-acre hub and a 250-room hotel.