More Tiny Houses? Plan would create more ‘bridge housing’ in Seattle

The Central District’s “Tiny House Village” is one model for the proposed $5.5 million program

With the debate continuing at City Hall over moves to transition away from emergency shelter solutions, Seattle is moving forward with one small plan to build more so-called “tiny houses” in the city.

Wednesday, the Seattle City Council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee chaired by Sally Bagshaw will begin moving on a plan from Mayor Jenny Durkan to sell an $11 million city-owned South Lake Union property to fund an “Innovative Housing Strategy Subcabinet” tasked with increasing the city’s “capacity to quickly and cost-effectively move people experiencing homelessness” into “bridge shelter or bridge housing.”

The “bridge” options the cabinet will look at include “mass shelter tents, hard sided tents, wood-frame sheds, portable modular bunkhouses or cabins, backyard cottages, and the master leasing of existing apartments.”

Some $5.5 million from the planned property sale has been proposed to fund the cabinet’s initiative.

“Since 2015, the City has successfully developed and managed six city-sanctioned encampments, most of which include tiny wooden structures that have quickly added capacity of the emergency shelter system,” a resolution also being readied by Bagshaw’s committee reads. “A July 2017 assessment of the first three City-sanctioned encampments that they are an effective homeless response strategy to meet the immediate needs of people without shelter, especially those who have been living outside for long periods. The City-sanctioned encampments not only address individuals’ immediate shelter needs but are also seeing success in working to resolve residents’ homelessness with permanent housing.”

The proposed $11 million sale would leave $2.4 million for the city’s displaced IT communications facility to find a new location and lease.

An additional $2 million from the plan is proposed to create a new Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot Program to help “prevent households from falling into homelessness while awaiting longer-term assistance from the Seattle Housing Authority.”

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8 thoughts on “More Tiny Houses? Plan would create more ‘bridge housing’ in Seattle

  1. I think this plan is excellent….it seeks to provide more humane housing for those “living rough,” and at the same time to decrease the scourge of unsanctioned camps which are a blight on our otherwise-fair city.

    Does anyone know what “master leasing of existing apartments” is?

    • I don’t know for sure, but my guess it that it’s when the city or some other agency rents an entire building from a landlord to use as transitional housing. This makes sense when the property is otherwise no longer in a position to make a reasonable profit, based on condition and location. Think ugly 60’s motels or apartment complexes in SODO. This is just a guess, though.

      (PS Where I grew up, people derogatorily referred to the phenomenon I describe as “welfare motels”).

  2. Even the people with a job are struggling to keep up with the cost of living in Seattle – 20% increase in property tax will no doubt drive out another bunch of low income and retired folks.

    Putting people in homedepot sheds is some kind of answer, but what exactly are they then doing during the day ? It doesn’t seem like a solution to the problem of lack of training, mental health issues, and the shift of the economy in Seattle.

    • Many people experiencing homelessness have jobs.

      By the way, some of those jobs are daytime jobs. Some of them are not. Because not everyone who works works in the daytime.

    • No doubt some experiencing homelessness DO have jobs. But for those that don’t– here we have another plan to build housing that doesn’t seem to address any jobs training. I’m sure most homeless would love to work, if they could find something. Eventually the City won’t have anything left to sell. When the money from selling these City assets is spent, then what? The homeless need job training, and the business community needs to be tapped to help.

    • I visited the tiny house village in 22nd right after it opened, while out walking my dog one day. I learned a few things: (1) everyone I met was friendly and eager to let their new neighbor know about the community; (2) residents pay a nominal monthly fee; (3) pretty much everyone living there had at least one job. These seem to be a stepping stone for people who have fallen through the economic cracks and need a chance to save some money for a while before getting back on their feet in regular housing. They aren’t for people who have mental health or substance use issues, or who are otherwise unemployable. And they aren’t for folks who are chronically homeless, for whatever reason. That is, they don’t solve all problems related to homelessness for everyone, but they are exactly what’s needed for one subset of the homeless population.

      Job training is, of course, another solution. But I don’t see them as mutually exclusive.

    • After living on the hill just 14 years, I cannot absorb another yearly property tax increase, especially this next one. So my Capitol Hill house is going on the market next week. Sad.

    • Scooter – I obviously don’t know your situation, but there are a few programs to help people with tax relief if you qualify.

      They do put a lien on your home, which can affect your ability to pass it on or will have to be paid if the property is sold. It’s probably not the best option for a younger person or someone who has only recently purchased, but as you’ve been here some time it may be an option that you can look into, rather than losing your home….

      Most of them are targeted to seniors and disabled people, but one is there for people who simply have a low income.

      Available To:
      Homeowners with combined disposable income of $57,000 or less.
      Program Benefits:
      For the qualifying applicant, the laws governing this program allow payment of the second half property tax installment due in October of the current year. Applications are due by September 1. The deferred amount accrues simple interest until repayment is complete. The interest rate varies and is based on an average of the federal short-term rate, plus 2 percent. The application form provides the rate for the current year. Deferrals must be repaid when the home is sold, the applicant passes away, or the home is no longer used as the primary residence.
      Qualifying Activity:
      Own home in Washington for five years; occupy as a primary residence; have combined disposable income of $57,000 or less; and have enough equity to secure the interest of the State of Washington in the property.