When Kim Bovee finally got enough money together to get off the streets, the Downtowner, which overlooks the train tracks in Pioneer Square, was the perfect place to start over.
Tenants at the former hotel at 308 4th Ave. S. paid one-third of their monthly income, making it an affordable option for those on fixed incomes.
Bovee paid $192 per month, a third of what he got in Social Security.
"This was my step off the street after shelters," the 58-year-old Bovee said. "It was a home."
But late last year, Bovee and the 240 others who live at the Downtowner got notices telling them rents might go up, but they didn't say by how much.
Most of the people who live in the building are elderly and disabled and also pay low rents.
The owner was planning to convert the apartment rents to market-rate after paying off a low-interest government loan that required rents to remain low. Once the loan went away, so did this requirement.
The building's planned conversion to market-rate rents would mean the apartments would go for $800 a month or more.
That's when the Tenants Union stepped in, knocking on doors at the apartment building, said Emily Murphy, an organizer with the Tenants Union.
The Tenants Union got the local arm of HUD, the Seattle Housing Authority, to issue every tenant in the building an individual Section 8 voucher, Murphy said.
With the voucher, tenants can stay in the building or move elsewhere and pay only one-third of their apartment's rent. HUD pays the rest.
Built in 1910 as a luxury hotel the Downtowner had lost its luster by 1971. The owner took out a low-interest mortgage loan on the building through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The loan came with an agreement that rents would remain low for the 40-year term of the mortgage. As part of that, HUD provided operating subsidies to the Downtowner through its Rent Supplement Program.