An Analysis of Historic Preservation and Affordable Housing Incentives in Seattle's Chinatown - International District
Kalthoff, Brian Philip
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This thesis investigates the financial, social and political impacts of the historic preservation and affordable housing incentives that are available to historically significant buildings in the Chinatown - International District of Seattle. The research aims to provide insight as to the effectiveness of these incentives in achieving the goal of rehabilitating buildings and providing affordable housing, while meeting the objectives of the current owners. Attention is given to the ownership structure of the subject buildings, with a particular focus on Chinese family associations. This paper includes a detailed account of the neighborhood's complex social and political history, as well as a study of the evolution of its built form, as these continue to influence the neighborhood today. The research was informed by a review of primary and secondary source material and by a series of confidential interviews with neighborhood property owners, city of Seattle employees, housing developers and a variety of community stakeholders. One significant finding is that many incentives are undesirable to individual property owners, Chinese family associations and other forms of collective ownership entities. As such, they have a weakened impact on potential historic building rehabilitation. This gap in accessing these incentives is due to a combination of factors, including risk aversion, conflict with ownership goals, inflexible incentive guidelines and the significant policy-driven barrier of entry to access the incentives. These issues are compounded by market forces that indicate that prevailing neighborhood rents often will not support non-subsidized rehabilitation projects. Meanwhile, appreciating costs and below-market rents are turning some of the under-used buildings into potential liabilities to their owners as costs begin to exceed rents. This combination of factors should compel policy-makers to reconsider the current incentive structure and other public policies that influence the International District.
- Urban planning