Innovative partnership houses seniors and veterans in First Hill: Seattle’s first and largest affordable housing high-rise in over 50 years

Tuesday marked the grand opening of Blake House and The Rise on Madison, an affordable housing high-rise brought to life through a partnership between nonprofits Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing. Located in the First Hill neighborhood in Seattle, the 17-story building is a blend of permanent supportive housing for seniors and veterans experiencing chronic homelessness, and independent housing for individuals and families on modest incomes. 

“This building is proof that we can make real strides toward ending homelessness in our region,” said Karen Lee, CEO of Plymouth Housing. “When we came to King County with an idea for this site, they understood how important it was to provide homes for people experiencing chronic homelessness. When we asked Bellwether to join us, we gained a partner who is doing transformative work providing homes for individuals and families. And of course, we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for our community, and the support of the First Hill neighborhood.” 

“This development represents so much of what is great about Seattle – support for an innovative development that will serve a broad range of needs, collaboration among committed partners, and a deep commitment to ensure that lower income people have a place in this city,” Bellwether CEO Susan Boyd said. “I’m grateful for our state and local government leaders who made this development a priority, to neighborhood leaders who were active proponents of the project, and to the brilliant and committed staff at Plymouth and Bellwether Housing who worked so hard to make this happen.” 

The first affordable housing high rise in Seattle in over 50 years, Blake House and The Rise on Madison has two apartment complexes – Plymouth will operate Blake House on floors two through five, and Bellwether will operate The Rise on Madison on floors six through 17. In total, there are 362 supportive and affordable units. 

King County Executive Dow Constantine, Representative Frank Chopp, Karen Lee Plymouth Housing CEO, and Susan Boyd Bellwether Housing CEO cut the ribbon marking the grand opening of Blake House and The Rise on Madison. Photo courtesy of Bellwether Housing.

Of the two complexes, King County’s Housing Finance Program (HFP) funded the 112-unit Blake House. A mix of funding, including an over $3 million investment from the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) funded construction of units specifically for seniors and senior veterans. This funding is part of the VSHSL’s Housing Stability investments which increase King County’s affordable housing supply, provide supportive transitional housing, assist the homeless crisis response system, help King County residents avoid foreclosure and eviction, and support programs that help older adults age-in-place.   

“Our communities are faced with growing challenges, especially veterans and older adults. The Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy invests in developing affordable housing to provide our communities with diverse and inclusive neighborhoods with connections to work, school, and all the things our region has to offer,” shared Leon Richardson King County’s Department of Community and Human Services Adult Services Division Director. “Blake House’s 112 units of permanent supportive housing will help stabilize veterans and senior veterans experiencing homelessness in our communities, honoring all they have contributed to King County.” 

Blake House and The Rise on Madison is also built on land donated by Sound Transit. Additional public funders include the Seattle Office of Housing and the State Department of Commerce. By leveraging innovative partnerships across multiple sectors of government, business, and nonprofit industries, the collaboration seized an opportunity to build affordable housing in First Hill’s already diverse and inclusive neighborhood. Close to jobs, transit, and healthcare services, the building is an example of the interventions needed to not only advance equitable transit-oriented development, but to also create housing opportunities for those who are priced out of our current housing market. 

Blake House features a ground floor retail space, offers onsite health care services to residents through a partnership with Swedish Health Services, and supports residents through onsite 24/7 case managers from Plymouth Housing. Investments like this are life changing – especially for veterans, people with developmental and physical disabilities, families facing displacement pressures, and people who are chronically homeless and housing insecure. 

The first residents of Blake House moved in earlier this year and over the next few months new residents will continue moving into the 112 units for seniors and senior veterans.