BRIDGE Housing CEO Cynthia Parker talks about the similarities in housing issues between Seattle and San Francisco.
BRIDGE Housing CEO Cynthia Parker talks about the similarities in housing issues between Seattle and San Francisco.
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BRIDGE Housing CEO Cynthia Parker turned out to be more than just Capitol Hill Housing’s keynote speaker during its annual fundraiser dinner — she’s also a partner in future transit-oriented development in Northgate.

Parker established Seattle’s housing office and previously served under two mayors as director of housing. She is now CEO of BRIDGE Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing developer. She and Capitol Hill Housing CEO Chris Persons serve together on the Housing Partnership Network.

“We’re also talking about doing a deal together,” Persons said before Parker’s Top of the Town keynote, keeping the details under wraps until after.

Persons came back up after to announce a Request for Proposals will soon be issued to find a private developer to work with CHH and BRIDGE to construct an affordable housing development around the future Northgate light rail station.

CHH is already developing 110 affordable housing units around the Capitol Hill light rail station, and a staffer told the Capitol Hill Times the Northgate project will be even larger.

Parker still has a home she bought in Queen Anne nearly two decades ago, and BRIDGE just recently opened a Seattle office.

Parker’s keynote address focused on the similarities between the housing market in Seattle and San Francisco, where she’s based, and what BRIDGE has done to address affordability challenges there.

San Francisco has been a “red-hot volcano” over the last five years in terms of housing demand, Parker said. A recent poll found 46 percent of Millennials in the city believe they will have to leave San Francisco due to high housing and other living costs.

“I think that there is still an opportunity for Seattle to change,” Parker said.

Keeping up with the demand has been hard, Parker said. A 68-unit apartment building BRIDGE opened in Oakland received 5,216 applications. Another 110-unit project had 10,000 applicants seeking affordable housing, she said.

Seattle attracts 1,100 new resident each week, Parker said, and there are currently 50 construction cranes in the sky.

Seattle and San Francisco are also among the highest median income areas, at $94,000 and $115,000, respectively.

“The desire (for housing) is really insatiable,” Parker said.

At the direction of President Donald Trump, legislation is expected to be delivered to Congress next week that would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent. That will have a “chilling effect” in the marketplace, Parker said, particularly for those reliant on low-income housing tax credits. She said she’s fine if the credit goes away, as long as something else takes its place.

“The social fabric of our country is really what’s at stake,” Parker said.

Getting a grip on the housing crisis takes support from the community and local, state and federal leadership, Parker said. In California, $4.3 billion in local bond measures have been passed. Seattle’s housing levy approved last year will provide $290 million.

Through San Francisco’s $350 million bond measure, the goal is to create 30,000 affordable housing units over the next five years. Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda has a goal of creating 20,000 units over the next 10 years.

“I’m telling you, folks, think big,” Parker said.

There are 113 housing bills in the California Legislature, Parker said, and her hope is that at least one that includes funding passes.

The BRIDGE Housing CEO advocated for more mixed-income development. The nonprofit developer is working on such a redevelopment project in San Francisco, which took a decade to get through entitlements, Parker said. Buffered by a neighborhood filled with multimillion-dollar homes, she said it was important to bring area residents to the table in order to build support for the project.

“Mixed-income communities are very, very tricky to achieve,” Parker said.

That project is similar to Capitol Hill Housing’s Liberty Bank Building, a 115-unit affordable housing development slated to break ground June 19 in Seattle’s Central District. Both are in historically black communities affected by multigenerational poverty, she said.

Domestic violence, drugs, crime and displacement are all factors BRIDGE addresses with its Trauma-Informed Community Building model, Parker said, adding until people are able to have stability, they won’t be able to change their lives.

“If you don’t move quickly here in Seattle, you’re going to be priced out.”