A rendering of the Kent/Des Moines light rail station scheduled to open in 2024. COURTESY IMAGE, Sound Transit

A rendering of the Kent/Des Moines light rail station scheduled to open in 2024. COURTESY IMAGE, Sound Transit

Sound Transit, Amazon agreement to create affordable housing projects

$100 million commitment to build near light rail stations, including Kent and Federal Way

Affordable housing developments could be coming to properties near Kent and Federal Way light rail stations because of an agreement between Amazon and Sound Transit.

Amazon and Sound Transit announced June 15 a partnership to accelerate the creation of up to 1,200 new affordable housing units on Sound Transit surplus properties near light rail stations across the Puget Sound region, which includes Kent and Federal Way. Amazon is committing $100 million in below-market funding to developers to help create and expedite the development of Sound Transit property offered for affordable housing, according to a joint news release.

The first $25 million will fund pre-development activities like site due diligence, engineering and permitting, while the remaining $75 million will support the construction of new affordable housing, which is expected to begin within five years. The partnership will help ensure that moderate- to low-income families can afford to live in great neighborhoods with easy access to employment, schools, health care, education, and other amenities.

“In its first six months, Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund has committed over $285 million to accelerate the creation and preservation of an estimated 2,000 affordable homes for the Puget Sound region,” said Catherine Buell, head of Community Development for Amazon. “Housing and transit are intertwined and this latest commitment will help ensure families from all income levels will benefit from the build out of mass transit—greater affordability and equitable economic opportunity, easy access to daily needs, and the environmental benefits of reduced traffic congestion and car reliance.”

Sound Transit is growing its light rail service as part of its voter-approved expansions. In addition, it has committed to promoting inclusive uses on Sound Transit sites that are reflective of the local community as part of the Board’s Equitable Transit Oriented Development Policy.

To date, Sound Transit’s transit-oriented development program has built, is constructing, or is designing over 1,500 affordable housing units on Sound Transit surplus property, according to the news release. Amazon’s investment will expedite their pre-development efforts by providing early-stage funding, as well as permanent financing for new affordable housing units developed on Sound Transit property.

“Increasingly, we are facing an affordable housing crisis across the entire Puget Sound region, and Sound Transit is expanding rail service into communities that are becoming less and less affordable for working families,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We have a forward-leaning policy of partnering with developers to facilitate affordable housing near our stations, but obtaining the necessary funding to build those units has always been a challenge. Amazon’s $100 million commitment to help fill that gap and make transit more accessible to those who need it the most is truly welcome and appreciated.”

“There’s nowhere better to build affordable housing than near transit,” said Kent Keel, Sound Transit board chair and University Place City Council member. “That’s why the Sound Transit Board has strongly endorsed using our surplus properties to help make our region more livable and equitable.”

Rising rent costs and real estate prices in the Puget Sound region have made transit-oriented development an impactful solution for connecting communities to jobs, services, and resources that allow them to remain in their cities and preserve the region’s diversity and culture, according to the news release. Transit-oriented affordable housing development also helps promote local community and economic development, environmental sustainability, and reduces commute times, expenses, and environmental impacts related to auto ownership.

Sound Transit, a transit system that serves the Central Puget Sound region, is working in close collaboration with local cities, counties and communities to plan for the needs of the properties near the existing Link light rail line as well as future stations adjacent to Northgate Link, East Link, Federal Way Link, Downtown Redmond Link and Lynnwood Link—many of which serve primarily lower- and middle-income zip codes.

By 2024, Sound Transit will nearly triple the reach of the region’s light rail system from 22 miles to 62 miles and from 22 stations to 50 stations, with further voter-approved investments coming during the following two decades.

The Federal Way Link extension from Angle Lake Station in SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way is under construction and scheduled to open in 2024. The agency is building two light rail stations in Kent and one in Federal Way.

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