Ed Key realizes he may not have much, but he's content with what he has. Sitting in his modest efficiency in the Denny Park Apartments, Key says, "I'm happy with my life."
Owned by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), the Denny Park Apartments is a new and attractive building with commercial space on the ground floor and five floors of apartments ranging from studios like Key's to three-bedroom units. The interior is plain but well kept.
Low-income housing like that provided by LIHI is subsidized by the Seattle Housing Levy, which is on the ballot again Nov. 3. The Levy, which is added to property owners' annual tax, is used to fund development of affordable housing, as well as loans to first time home buyers and emergency rental assistance. The current Levy, which will expire at the end of 2009, has already exceeded its goals for number of units constructed and number of households helped. An oversight committee monitors the progress of the Levy programs for the Mayor and City Council.
Key, 77, has lived in LIHI apartments for the past six years. His only source of income is Social Security. Key is a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars, but his 15 years of service was not enough to receive a pension. Most recently Key worked at the K2 Corporation, which he saw go from a start-up to a producer of world class ski equipment. Key's 18 years there was, again, not long enough to receive a pension, although he did have a 401K.
Now Key fills his days reading a wide variety of books, from mystery novels to anthropology tomes. Before moving to his current apartment about 20 months ago he lived in a senior housing unit in Queen Anne. His new home has a mix of different ages and income levels, with many families. Still, Key has found the building to be quiet, something he appreciates since he goes to bed at 8 p.m. He greets his neighbors in the entranceway, and says of the the youngest residents, "they're mostly good kids."
Key also has no complaints about the buildings' management. It may not always have much money for repairs, especially in this economy, Key says, but then, "nobody ever has enough money." Key, who was a child during the Great Depression, has seen hard economic times before. He says his parents always had a garden to grow their own food and that neighbors shared with one another.
Today it's harder, he thinks. "The people don't really stick together as much." Maybe that's what a housing levy that supports seniors on fixed incomes and minimum-wage workers is all about: a community sticking together.