Willowcrest affordable housing project wins award from governor for sustainability, community partnerships

The homes are part of the Sunset Area Transformation Plan and provide affordable housing ownership.

Willowcrest Townhomes in Renton has won a 2020-2021 Governor’s Smart Communities Award by the Washington State Department of Commerce for being a uniquely sustainable model for affordable housing that residents can own.

Willowcrest is the first multifamily, net-zero energy, and permanently affordable homeownership project in King County. The homes provide permanent affordable housing for families making between 60 and 80% of the area median income.

The award recognizes achievements by local leaders who promote smart growth planning and projects that contribute to thriving communities, a prosperous economy, and sustainable infrastructure in Washington state. Willowcrest is the eighth project in Renton to win a GSCA award since the award was instituted in 2006.

Eleven communities won 2020-2021 awards. However, the Willowcrest project was the only one honored with a GSCA Smart Partnership Award, which goes to a “joint public project that implements a comprehensive plan.” In their review, judges wrote that the project was a model for others looking to begin climate-focused projects and environmental justice work.

Willowcrest was conceived six years ago as part of the Sunset Area Transformation Plan. The innovative 12-unit project is a partnership between Homestead Community Land Trust, the sponsor and developer, Renton Housing Authority, who donated the land, JP Morgan Chase, who gave the initial grant contribution, and the City of Renton, who also contributed a grant. The project’s architect was Third Place Design Co-operative, and Edge Developers was the general contractor.

The Renton City Council authorized $322,000 for the project to help support the highly energy-efficient design and features.

Willowcrest consists of nine three-bedroom and three four-bedroom townhomes, designed to be highly energy-efficient. The homes include solar panels and Energy Star appliances. Heating and cooling systems will provide a 25% energy savings beyond Washington State Energy Code. A high-efficiency heat pump water heater also reduces energy costs, and WaterSense low-flow fixtures provide water conservation.

It’s a short walk from Willowcrest to the new Sunset Neighborhood Park, Renton Highlands Library, and shopping. The Sunset Neighborhood is served by Metro Transit Route 240, which will connect with the East Link Extension when completed in 2023. The neighborhood is also served by Metro Route 105, which connects to the downtown Renton Transit Center. King County Metro also plans to expand Rapid Ride service to the neighborhood in the future.