The nonprofit Ethiopian Community in Seattle aims to build a housing complex of about 120 units for low-income seniors and families.

By Chetanya Robinson (Crosscut) |

While the Rainier Beach neighborhood has long been a thriving center for Ethiopian Americans in Seattle, many community members are worried about preserving connections amid rising real-estate prices, gentrification and the economic challenges for many elders who immigrated here.

Most community members now live miles from here, many in more-affordable cities like SeaTac, Tukwila, Kent, even Tacoma, according to Habtamu Abdi, an East African community leader. And while many still come here to run businesses, worship or just get together, there’s worry about maintaining connections to the neighborhood.

Community members have been working for more than a year to create a housing project for seniors and other low-income residents at the Ethiopian Community Center, a square, one-story building with a playground and large parking lot. But the going hasn’t been easy, despite signs of interest from city and other political leaders.

A proposal from City Councilmember Kshama Sawant to put more than $4 million into the project received two hearings from the City Council but not the kind of money she sought. And an effort to put state funding into helping get the project going has been tied up political wrangling around the state’s stalled capital construction budget.

The stresses of gentrification and housing affordability are not readily apparent. The Ethiopian Community Center sits a block from a church with signs in English and Amharic. And on either side of Rainier Avenue in south Seattle, immigrant-owned grocery stores, restaurants and shops display signs in Amharic.

The nonprofit Ethiopian Community in Seattle aims to build a housing complex of about 120 units for low-income seniors and families. It would be situated on what’s now the parking lot of the present community center, itself a property the community came together to buy in 2010.

Continue reading this story at Crosscut
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