He bought the complex in 2005 and since then has worked with the YWCA to place low-income single mothers in the building.
Steves said in his blog that one of his pet social causes has long been affordable housing.
“Twenty years ago, I devised a scheme where I could put my retirement savings not into a bank to get interest but into cheap apartments to house struggling neighbors,” he wrote. “Rather than collecting rent, my 'income' would be the joy of housing otherwise desperate people.”
Steves said his project evolved until he eventually owned the complex. His partners, the YWCA and the Rotary Club of Edmonds, then renovated the units with help from local government as well as the Gates Foundation.
Single mothers and their children then moved into Steves' complex. The building, Trinity Place, was at nearly full capacity from 2005 to 2016.
He gave the building this year to the YWCA. His next move was to inspire others who are fortunate to use his plan.
“Working with the YWCA and the Rotary Club of Edmonds, we publicized this creative way of putting a fortunate person's retirement nest egg to work in a powerful way in hopes that others would be inspired to do the same in their communities,” Steves wrote.
Steves said his program is designed so the donor could eventually take back control of the land and retire on it by selling it or renting the apartments. He said he was committed to providing the apartments to the YWCA for 15 years, knowing he had security of the equity in the building if he ever needed it.
But his hope that he’d one day have the financial security to donate it entirely came true this year.
Steves’ Facebook post about the donation has been seen by 1.5 million people so far.