Arches Building Purchased in Effort to Maintain Affordable Housing

Arches Building Purchased in Effort to Maintain Affordable Housing

The Arches Apartments, located at Rainier Ave South and South Holly Street, has provided affordable housing to families in the Rainier Valley for more than 50 years. Barbara and Norm Chamberlain purchased the building in 1976 and raised their own family there for 17 years. The Chamberlains placed a high value on maintaining stability for their tenants, and kept rents far below current market rates.  

After the family matriarch, Barbara Chamberlain, passed away early this year, the building was listed for sale. A local non-profit, the Southeast Seattle Senior Foundation (SSSF), was the successful bidder. The SSSF currently owns and manages the Brighton Apartments across the street from the Arches. Curtis Brown, Executive Director of the SSSF, was passionate about acquiring the building to help residents at the Arches avoid the inevitable rent increases that would result from new ownership by a for-profit entity. 

The SSSF has a long legacy of creating and supporting affordable housing in the Rainier Valley. In 1999, community icon and then-president of the SSSF, Jean Veldwyk, spearheaded a community fundraising campaign to raise $1 million dollars to purchase the Brighton Apartments. Under SSSF’s ownership, the building transitioned from a hub for drugs and violence to the only independent living campus for seniors in the Rainier Valley. The Brighton is unique in that only one member of the family is required to be 55+yrs old, enabling seniors to have younger family members live with them as caregivers and for grandparents raising grandchildren to reside together.

Current SSSF Executive Director Curtis Brown was inspired by early champions like Veldwyk and Gisela Baxter, the first manager of the Brighton Apartments and current SSSF board member. Brown is committed to developing a model for community ownership as a way of mitigating the displacement that comes from gentrification and rising housing costs.  “You know how to stop displacement?” Brown asked the Seattle Times. “You buy up as much of the neighborhood as possible, and make sure developers don’t get it.”

He is taking a clear step toward making this dream a reality with SSSF’s purchase of the Arches. And there are more plans in the works: SSSF is also preparing to build 20 housing units across the street from the Arches, at 4627 South Holly Street. Two of the primary developers and architects involved in the Holly Street project are African American business owners Kay Cole and Leslie Byrd. Cole and Byrd were recently selected to participate in the Housing Equity Accelerator program, a new initiative to support and promote real estate developers of color who focus on affordable housing.

Cole and Byrd are developing novel approaches to affordable housing in the area, including a rent-to-own option for tenants in SSSF buildings. Creating a path for tenants to buy into ownership through their monthly rent payments would build familial wealth for local families, slow displacement, and increase income diversity in the community.

Curtis Brown of SSSF stresses that the affordable housing work being done by the Foundation, Cole, and Byrd is not just about development and improving the “look” or economic prospects of the area, but about the community building a neighborhood together.

Take action:

Join SSSF in building our neighborhood by supporting the Arches acquisition. SSSF is currently fundraising for the down payment needed for the purchase of the apartments, and is asking the community for tax deductible donations.  The Windermere Real Estate Mount Baker office and the Windermere Foundation are making a contribution to show support for the Arches acquisition and Brown’s vision. Please consider a donation through SSSF’s Go Fund Me Campaign, at, or contact Curtis Brown directly at

Learn more about SSSF and the Arches acquisition:

Heidi Groover, Seattle Times, May 1 2022. “As South Seattle gentrifies, the race is on to save an affordable apartment building.”

Elizabeth Turnbull, South Seattle Emerald, April 15 2022. “South Seattle Group A Step Closer to Purchasing the Arches for Affordable Housing.”

Agueda Pacheco Flores, South Seattle Emerald, April 8 2022. “Brighton Development Group Hopes to Keep the Arches Apartments Affordable.”

The Brighton Apartments, “Our Story.”

2500 1387 Corrie Watterson, Dorothy Driver
Start Typing