HHTF Option 3: Sell with Restrictions
Sell with Restrictions
Under this combined option, ESUC would sell the Holly House (HH) property with restrictions. The restrictions, as permanent covenants, would obligate the buyer to use the property for social justice purposes, such as affordable housing. One alternative to implementation of the restrictive covenants is creation of a land trust, but this specific structure has not been explored with any of the potential buyers with whom we have had discussions.
The HH property is zoned as R-30, which allows up to 30 residential housing units per acre. The HH property of 3/4 acre would therefore enable the construction of about 22 units. Current Bellevue zoning authorizes double the number of units for units fewer than 600 square feet if the use of the property is designated for senior housing or other limited types of group housing. Such a waiver would permit 44 units for the existing 3/4 acre and up to 60 units if the parcel size was increased to 1 acre.
The option papers included in this category include selling to Imagine Housing or a similar agency for affordable housing, selling with legal agreements aligned with our UU values, selling to a for-profit developer with restrictions, and selling for development of an intergenerational co-housing complex.
Either collectively or individually, our group met with several non-profit organizations plus a for-profit development company to discuss their interest in a potential project on the Holly House site. We identified the non-profit organizations as ones that would be amenable to restrictions that would cause the property to be used permanently to support affordable housing, and in some cases, specifically housing for homeless people. In very preliminary discussions, two for-profit developers indicated their willingness to consider designating a portion of their projects for affordable housing, but a substantial amount of additional investigation and discussion would be necessary to determine the feasibility of this approach. A summary of those meetings is attached as an appendix.
Social and Economic Justice Consistent with UU Principles
Any of the non-profit organizations and others that would be similar appear to have missions that are consistent with UU principles, in that they focus on providing housing and/or social services to vulnerable populations and promote social justice. For profit builders and developers obviously do not have the same social justice mission as the non profits.
The implementation time for any of the non-profit partner scenarios is likely to be 2–3 years, depending on funding needs and resources, to obtain the necessary permits and funding. For-profit builders would not have the same need to raise capital or obtain grants to build a project, and so the timeline would most likely be shorter, although if they wished to subdivide the property into smaller individual lots as part of a “for sale” project, that could increase their timelines. Approval times in the City of Bellevue are very slow currently, due to huge development pressures around the City, but Bellevue is clearly very supportive of affordable housing and may give some priorities to processing development applications from affordable housing providers.
Any project that involved demolishing the existing Holly House structure would impact the women living there and the opportunity for Sophia Way to continue to provide this housing option. But if Sophia Way is able to construct its own larger facility elsewhere in Bellevue, that impact would be mitigated.
The risks to the congregation are as follows:
- ESUC enters into a purchase and sale agreement with an organization that requires a significant feasibility period, and the organization is then unable to perform, thus keeping the property off the market for a potentially significant amount of time.
- If the property is developed in phases, such as under the Attain Housing proposal, Attain Housing may be unable to develop later phases of their project and thus the congregation would be left with a smaller and presumably less valuable piece of property.
- The organization that purchases the property is unable to complete the project, for whatever reason, and ESUC is left with an incomplete project that is an eyesore.
- Some affordable housing developers operate with tax incentives that are limited in time horizon, such as for subsidies that enable lower rental rates to be charged. Consequently, it is possible under certain structures of affordable housing development that the rental rates of the individual units would revert back whatever the market rate would be at some point in the future. It is important that ESUC understand any potential partner’s obligations to maintain affordable housing in perpetuity.
The financial implications for the church are generally positive, depending on the timing of payment of the purchase price. It has been estimated that the sale of the HH property without restrictions could bring an estimated $1.25 to $1.75 million. It is likely that restrictions, for example, to require affordable housing, would lower the sales price. There are many unknowns at this point, and much depends on the density that will be permitted on the site as well as the product type that a buyer wishes to build. The risks would be waiting for a substantial period of time, approximately 2–3 years, to see if an agency could obtain the necessary permits and funding. If ESUC elected to sell to a for-profit developer, it could undoubtedly obtain a higher purchase price, but the magnitude of the difference is unknown. A for-profit developer would have the same challenges with obtaining the necessary permits, but would most likely not have the same challenges that a non-profit may have in obtaining funding for the project.
Under this option, presumably ESUC would receive a cash payment of the purchase price that it could use for other purposes as determined by the congregation. A sale also would eliminate the necessity for ongoing maintenance and repair expenses for the existing Holly House structure, which can be considerable. The demands placed on the congregation would be minimal, as presumably the buyer in this scenario would be fully responsible for all costs and risk associated with its proposed development.
On the negative side, a sale would permanently reduce the campus size and permanently dispose of a valuable church asset.
Impact on Campus
The impact of a project on the current campus is unknown. However, it is clear that any project would cause more intensive development to occur closer to the ESUC campus, and most likely maximize the footprint allowed under the zoning code, thus causing development to come closer to the property line. The current aesthetic of the campus would undoubtedly be affected, particularly as some of the existing trees on the HH parcel would most likely be taken down. To mitigate some of the impacts, we could negotiate with a buyer to provide buffers or shared use open space. But the more we tried to influence the use of the HH property the lower the purchase price would be, particularly if we required a lower density development than what is allowed under the zoning code.
Authors: Jane Sisk, Abbie Birmingham, and Jason Puracal
Contributors of Option Papers: Abbie Birmingham, Ann Fletcher and Dave Kappler, Danna Schmidt