January 23, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 4

News

New Seattle Housing Authority commissioner supports Yesler redevelopment

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

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Yusuf Cabdi resigned from the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) Board of Commissioners in protest last August, accusing the organization of becoming a market-rate housing developer. Then he also protested the redevelopment of the low-income Yesler Terrace neighborhood into a mixed-income neighborhood with office buildings and high-rises.

Five months later, Mayor Mike McGinn appointed Aser Ashkir as Cabdi’s replacement. Cabdi held one of two seats on the board reserved for members of SHA communities.

Ashkir, a resident of SHA’s High Point neighborhood, said he is in favor of turning Yesler Terrace into a mixed-income development.

The redevelopment plan for Yesler Terrace looks like High Point in West Seattle, said Ashkir, who has a degree in economics and works on improving academic achievement in East African communities.

“I know High Point, and I know it’s changed the lives of many people,” he said.

That’s a sharp contrast from Cabdi, who said that SHA has not successfully created new housing and instead pursues projects that benefit large developers. He announced his resignation at a public hearing held by the Seattle City Council in August. (“A former Seattle Housing Authority board member explains why he resigned” RC, Aug. 29).

To redevelop Yesler Terrace, SHA will sell off large portions of the land and rebuild its 561 low-income housing units on a smaller footprint. SHA plans to build 100 more units for extremely poor families and 290 more units for moderately poor families. The redevelopment will open up the space for 950 units of middle-income housing and up to 3,100 units of market-rate housing.

The city has rezoned the area to allow high-rises in the neighborhood. When completed, the project should include several towers, apartment buildings, business offices, retail space and a large central park.

The Seattle City Council approved McGinn’s nomination Jan. 16, along with appointing Deborah Thiele to replace outgoing Commissioner Heyward Watson and reappointing Kollin Min to another term on the board.

Min works on family homelessness at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Thiele previously worked at the King County Housing Authority and now works with housing authorities across the nation.

Cabdi and Watson’s names remained on the SHA board and were listed as absent for all meetings until their positions were filled.

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