County offered to buy 162 units near Sea-Tac Airport

SeaTac Airport, WAThe Port of Seattle has rejected an offer by King County to purchase and preserve 162 apartments in Burien with rents that are affordable to lower- and moderate-income families.

The port will move ahead with plans to demolish the now-vacant Lora Lake Apartments, which were purchased in 1998 to make room for Sea-Tac Airport’s third runway, Chief Executive Tay Yoshitani said in a letter.

The port’s agreement with the King County Housing Authority, which rented and operated the apartments until this summer, was always temporary, the letter said. There was a clear understanding that the apartments would be emptied and torn down as the runway neared completion, Yoshitani said.

Advocates for the homeless maintain that 162 of the apartments that lie outside the new runway’s safety zone should be maintained as affordable apartments for working families.

One expressed disappointment in the port’s quick rejection of King County Executive Ron Sims’ offer to buy the complex and an adjacent property for $18 million.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Bill Block, director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. “The idea that because seven years ago they were going to take this down doesn’t take into account the tremendous change in the housing market.”

Block called the port’s decision “fiscally irresponsible,” as the county estimates the property would be worth only $11 million as an industrial property.

But Yoshitani said the port agreed with the city of Burien’s assessment that “a site just 900 feet from the centerline of the third runway is not suitable for housing.”

He urged the county to consider an “intriguing proposal” from Burien officials to replace the affordable units in a nicer location within the city limits.

King County officials have said the $30 million it would take to build new apartments wouldn’t be the wisest use of scarce dollars for affordable housing.

By JENNIFER LANGSTON, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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