We are believers in the power of Real Estate Development to make the world a better place. When done well, new construction can provide new needed amenities that make communities stronger, improve housing affordability, and spread wealth to many participants.
However, it’s clear that when not done well, development can cause serious issues. From red-lining, to displacement, to increased pollution and waste, there is a history of real harm in our industry.
For this reason, Acer House is an intentional experiment in what we call “equitable development.” We believe we are on the forefront of a movement for equity which will shape the behavior of our industry in the same way that past efforts on environmental sustainability have done.
We encourage you to read about our commitment to equity and join us on our journey.
Historically, Real Estate Development has been challenged by issues of equity
- Displacement of existing residents and business in a way that disrupts communities
- Historic systematic exclusion based on race (red lining)
- A closed ecosystem of business which rewards established players
- Concentrated wealth creation with large, often non-resident investors reaping disproportionate rewards
- Limited opportunities for community input
Equitable Development is an attempt to address these factors
- Anti-racist principals built in at every stage
- Truly diverse project teams
- Real community outreach, focused on hearing all voices not just those who understand the ‘system’
- Retail and amenity programming designed to meet community needs
- Broad-based investment and rewards, especially focused on rewarding those with existing presence in the community
- Partnership with local organizations, partnership with the public sector
Acer House’s Commitment to Equity
Acer House is a commitment to a new kind of real estate development, one that embraces the opportunities of inclusion and equity. Below are the specific commitments that we are making in this regard. It is our hope that by building a great project that embraces these principals, we will encourage others to behave in the same way in other parts of Seattle and across the United States.
We are affirmatively ensuring diversity in every part of project, including in our partner selection, vendor selection, and in the traditions we celebrate
All current tenants, retail and commercial, have the option to stay. Landowners on the site are partners in the development
The community is our partner, both in how we learn from it and how we allow it participate in our project as a financial partner
Our apartments are truly affordable for every segment of Seattle households
We aim to meet or exceed the very high standards set in the City of Seattle for environmental sustainability
It is well documented that the Real Estate industry has been an active participant in institutionalized racism in our country. Policies such as red-lining have made an overt contribution, but so have more informal, unintentional practices such as the way the development industry relies heavily on informal networks of (mostly White- and male-owned) small business. The entire practice of architecture in our country is strongly Euro-centric and allows for very little expression of alternate cultural traditions, which sends a message that not everyone is welcome in the buildings we build. For this reason, the Acer House project has made the following commitments:
- In every category of procurement, we do our utmost to include at least one minority or woman-owned business
- Where possible, we will include students and young professionals of color as partners in our design and development process, to make our project better and to build a diverse capacity for the future
One of the major critiques of real estate development is that it promotes ‘gentrification’, the concept that the benefits of new developments flow to investors and new residents who do not have roots in the community in which the development happens. When this occures, existing residents get displaced, with far-reaching negative consequences. For this reason, the Acer House project has made the following commitments.
- All current retail business that were operating on the site at the time we acquired the site will have the option to rent a space in the new building at the same affordable rent they currently enjoy, adjusted only for inflation
- All current residential tenants will be able to rent an apartment at a rent that is affordable to them
- All the landowners who are contributing their land to the Acer project will be partners in the development, benefiting from the value creation on their real estate
All developments in cities such as Seattle have to have some degree of “community input”, but usually this is just a box-checking exercise and is generally dominated by the loudest voices who understand how the system works. To truly reflect community needs, developers need to seek out and engage with a diverse set of people who do not always show up for Design Review meetings. Once a building is built, the engagement with the community generally stops. For this reason, the Acer House project has made the following commitments:
- Pro-actively engage with the broader community and provide amenities which address their needs (in our case, this will be a pre-school that serves low-income families and micro-retail spaces that are affordable for small entrepenures and non-profits)
- Create a crowd-funded community co-investment fund which allow people with roots in the Central Area to share in the financial value created by the project
Most real estate developments target luxury renters or buyers with amenity-rich offerings designed to maximize rent. This is a major contributor to our affordability crisis, but as we hope to show with Acer house, is not a requirement for profitable development. For this reason, the Acer House project has made the following commitments:
- Ensure that all of our apartments are affordable to people who earn less than the Area Median Income (AMI)
- Work with the City of Seattle to use the MHA and MFTE programs to offer at least 30% of our units to households earning as low as 40% of AMI (considered very low income)
- Commit to working with non-profit and government partners to attract extremely low income residents who can use vouchers to ensure they can affordably be part of our community — especially residents who have experienced homelessness in the past
Climate change is one of the great challenges for our generation and is a topic that many in our community have identified as a top priority. Housing and related services are major contributors to energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, the Acer House project has made the following commitments:
- Meet or exceed all the stringent requirements of the Seattle Energy Code
- Contribute to the health of our residents with a roof-top food garden
- Encourage our tenants to live a car-free lifestyle, including through not offering parking within the building