DWT represented Facing Homelessness, a nonprofit organization working to install panelized, sustainable, compact homes in the backyards of volunteering Seattle homeowners, and then rent those houses to homeless persons. The BLOCK project is the brainchild of architect Rex Hohlbein and Jenn LaFreniere.
Facing Homelessness set out to build low-cost, dignified, and sustainable homes for those living on the streets in one of the most competitive housing markets in the United States. Since then, dozens of contractors and subcontractors have flocked to the BLOCK Project to donate time and expertise. In 12 months, more than 1,500 community members stepped forward to contribute time, materials, space, or money for construction of BLOCK Homes. This community has now successfully raised nearly $450,000 to build the first 13 BLOCK Homes.
DWT real estate partner Jim Greenfield and associate Josh Friedmann have assisted the project with a wide range of real estate matters and served as utility infielders on unexpected legal and strategic questions. “Facing Homelessness is basically starting up a nonprofit social services organization and a real estate development firm at the same time,” Josh said.
DWT’s team has supported Facing Homelessness in creating organizational and governance documents, compliance policies, real estate documents, and program procedures, providing general strategic advising along the way. “We’ve been doing a fair amount of helping them understand and comply with various new landlord-tenant requirements that have been coming out of the Seattle City Council over the last several years, which continue to change as an ongoing process,” Josh said.
Matt LeMaster, chair of the firm’s M&A practice group, supported the project on several governance and corporate formation matters; construction litigation partner Traeger Machetanz worked on contracting matters; and healthcare associate Kyle Gotchy helped prepare agreements between Facing Homelessness and partnering social services organizations and government agencies.
Tax partner Dirk Giseburt worked on a range of novel state taxation issues arising from the nonprofit’s unique business model, working with the Washington State Department of Revenue to try to secure favorable interpretations, and helped Facing Homelessness draft favorable legislative changes.