Inslee Proposes $800 Million Housing, Homelessness Plan

Gov. Inslee’s supplemental budget proposal includes funding for new tiny-house village shelters.

By John Stang

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced $815 million supplemental budget proposal to respond to homelessness across the state. His announcement came one day before King County planned to release a new count of the region’s homeless population, based on data obtained from homeless service providers through a database called the Homeless Management Information System, that is expected to be significantly higher than previous “point in time” counts.

Inslee’s proposal did not include detailed information about how much funding Seattle and King County stood to receive.

While it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, the Washington Department of Commerce typically divides capital projects in thirds, with one third going to Seattle and King County, one third going to other cities and one third going to rural areas, Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee told PubliCola. The commerce department would handle more than $700 million of the $815 million package in its capital and operations budgets.

If approved, the package would help build tiny-house villages, provide help for people to pay their utility bills, expand behavioral health facilities for the homeless, and speed up efforts to find places for the homeless living in tents on public right-of-ways.

Inslee announced the package Wednesday at the Copper Pines Habitat For Humanity complex in Ballard, which will include seven three-bedroom units for families making 80 percent or less of Seattle’s median income.

Inslee also announced legislation that would allow what low-rise apartments, split lots, duplexes, and other types of low-impact density on all residential lots within a half-mile of a major transit stop in cities with populations greater than 25,000 people. The legislation would effectively override laws dictating suburban-style single-family development in cities.

“We cannot wait years and decades to get people out of the rain,” Inslee said, adding that the state’s population growth has created a shortage of roughly 250,000 homes. “It is unacceptable to us to have people living under bridges and not have solutions.”

He said the state’s population growth has created a shortage of roughly 250,000 homes in Washington. His proposals addresses a range from the extremely poor to renting families in danger of losing their homes because of rising bills. Inslee said his proposals would build 1,500 new permanent housing units and fund acquisition of existing properties to add another 2,400 shelter beds, tiny house village units, and permanent housing units, including short-term shelter for people living in encampments across the state.

A document outlining Inslee’s proposal estimated that about 30 of every 10,000 state residents were homeless before the pandemic, a number the state believes has increased by about 2 percent. Statewide, 80,000 families said they could soon face eviction or foreclosure, according to the US Census Bureau.

Inslee also announced legislation that would allow what he called “middle housing”—low-rise apartments, split lots, duplexes, and other types of low-impact density, commonly known as “missing-middle housing”—on all residential lots within a half-mile of a major transit stop in cities with populations greater than 25,000 people. The legislation would effectively override laws dictating suburban-style single-family development in cities.

In a statement, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Rachel Smith connected the dots between density and the housing crisis “Employers are struggling to hire and retain staff right now, and it is no secret that our region’s high cost of housing is a major factor in the decisions people are making to live and work here. State policy that will ensure that more middle-income housing can be delivered in our communities is absolutely a step in the right direction,” Smith said.

Inslee voiced optimism that the legislature will pass most or all of his proposals, noting that the money is already in the state’s coffers—meaning no new revenue will be needed in the form of taxes or fees. More than two-thirds of the funding will come from federal COVID relief dollars.

Inslee said the state’s efforts should get some people off the streets in 2022 calendar. “I think we can see some of these tiny housing villages built in a few months,” Inslee said. Sharon Lee, director of the Low Income Housing Institute, said LIHI would “love to do 10 more villages.” King County Regional Homelessness Authority director Marc Dones has expressed skepticism about allowing tiny house villages to “proliferate,” noting that people tend to stay in tiny houses longer than other types of shelter before moving into permanent housing.

These village have units that are  96 to 140 square feet in size. They provide shelter, privacy,, and access to showers, bathrooms and cooking equipment. Seattle has 10 tiny-unit villages and Tacoma has three, said Sharon Lee, executive director of the non-profit Low Income Housing Institute. Most have 40 to 50 units, while one in Tacoma has 70 units.

Inslee’s package will be contained in two policy bills and the state supplemental operating and capital budgets. The “short” 60-day legislative session begins January 10.

Here are some highlights of Inslee’s $815 million proposal:

$100 million would help families pay their utility bills, so they have a better chance of keeping their homes.

$11.3 million would go to landlords to mitigate lost income from unpaid rent.

$334 million would buy or build more permanent housing and shelter for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.

$48.6 million would fund supportive behavioral health services, including housing and employment assistance, medical respite for people experiencing homelessness who are too sick to return to the street, and crisis intervention for permanent supportive housing.

$51 million would pay for encampment response, including funding for local response teams and to help the state Department of Transportation “help remediate encampment sites after someone secures housing and prevent future encampments from forming on highway rights of way.”

$100 million would enable the state to continue an existing grant program that funds enhanced, socially distanced shelter.

4 thoughts on “Inslee Proposes $800 Million Housing, Homelessness Plan”

  1. Gov. Inslee is getting better and better. In so many ways single family homes are a total curse. Anybody who has had the good fortune to spend time in Seoul, S. Korea has, no doubt, seen the beauty, and practicality, of the hundreds and hundreds of
    20-40 story towers, throughout the city and the country. The Korean winter hits freezing and below pretty much every night for 3 months. Do SFHs make any sense? I don’t think so. I can bicycle the whole city N. to S. and E. to W. comfortably. Single family Seattle N. to S. is not fun. E. to W. the same (ugly). Seoul has 13x the population of Seattle, 2.5x the land area, including some massive parks. The number of businesses that can thrive around the many clusters of towers, or a single 40 story,
    is impressive. No car needed. Everything you need is near you. I’ve stayed in several of these towers, and the level of quality if quite high. So far, here, it’s mostly townhouses and low-rises. If there is not a geological or climatic reason to go high, then let’s build ’em high.

  2. Yes the problem can be solved with money. Last weekend I treated a young man without stable housing who had to be airlifted to my hospital and then needed a 4 day stay in intensive care. Cost to the State (you and me) probably $50,000. Could have prevented the whole disaster if he was in supportive housing. Anyone careful with tax dollars puts prevention ahead of a cure.

  3. Let’s see if Jay Inslee can solve homelessness this time with another shot of hundreds of millions of our hard-earned money. Nope. It is not going to happen. How about another hundred-million after that?…stolen from the productive class. I know, lets make it an even billion. No, a trillion. Then we will get the problem under control right? Unfortunately, this is a problem which only gets worse as a direct result of spending more money on it. If you ever took a class on real economics then you would already know that. I am not referring to fake economics like they teach at The Evergreen State College. The stupidity of Progressives is truly breathtaking, but also very entertaining. Please keep reporting on this type of Lib-tard thinking. HA HA Steve Willie

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