‘American issues’ — New federal initiative to address homelessness in cities across nation will include a focus on Seattle

The Biden administration announced a new plan on Thursday to help reduce homelessness in five major U.S. cities including Seattle. The plan will provide federal assistance — but not direct funding — and support to help cities get unsheltered residents into permanent housing.

Seattle is one of the cities that will receive federal help under the All Inside plan. Officials say city has the third-highest population of homeless residents in the country after Los Angeles and New York. In 2022, there were more than 13,300 homeless people in Seattle, according to a one-night count required by the federal government. But local officials say different methods show there are four times as many living homeless in King County.

The federal plan will provide Seattle and the other cities as well as the state of California with help to secure existing Washington D.C. funding to build more affordable housing, provide rental assistance, and offer other services. The plan will also provide Seattle with technical assistance to help the city coordinate its efforts to reduce homelessness. Continue reading

With $11B plan in limbo, King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO resigns

(Image: King County Regional Homelessness Authority)

Ending Seattle’s homelessness crisis with a regional approach is going to be easier said than done. The latest setback starts at the top. Tuesday, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority announced that CEO Marc Dones was stepping down after two years in the role as the organization was taking shape and finally getting off the ground:

The KCRHA team and our City and County partners are grateful and appreciative of the visionary work of CEO Marc Dones in starting up the King County Regional Homelessness Authority as a new regional agency. Mx. Dones has served as CEO since 2021, and was deeply involved in the design of the agency from its first inception in 2018. They have been a tireless advocate for racial equity and social justice, centering lived experience, increasing affordable housing, highlighting root causes of economic instability, and working together to iterate on new approaches to transforming the homelessness response system.

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Here’s why the Lavender Rights Project, county officials, and Seattle’s mayor think this Capitol Hill apartment building is the right place to start a new approach to creating supportive housing and putting a real dent in the homelessness crisis

The 35-unit building is part of a neighborhood that includes small to midsize apartment buildings and single family style homes like the famous pink house next door (Image: CHS)

An $11.6 million acquisition is turning a market-rate Capitol Hill apartment building into affordable, supportive housing for “queer, transgender, two-spirit, Black, Indigenous, people of color” experiencing chronic homelessness as county and city officials pin their hopes on a new approach to creating housing facilities better integrated into neighborhoods and communities.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell squeezed into an E Republican studio apartment just off Broadway Monday morning to explain why the housing is being created here — and to introduce the Lavender Rights Project, the organization that will operate the soon to open building and make it the black and trans community resource and advocacy group’s new home with help from the American Indian and Alaska Native people-dedicated Chief Seattle Club,

“We’re working to have Health Through Housing facilities in every community, particularly communities where there’s need,” Constantine told CHS Monday about the program that powered the purchase of the newly constructed 35-unit apartment building using funding including $6 million allocated from unneeded jail spending during the pandemic.

“This building is really focused on two aspects of overrepresentation in the homeless community. Black indigenous population is massively overrepresented in homelessness,” the county executive said. “This population intersects with gender diverse communities which are also overrepresented. So this is a place where we can meet those who most need the help and get them into safe housing with services and remaining connected to community.”

The new building will be a test of the concept as previous acquisitions of hotel properties in commercial areas of the county haven’t worked out.

CHS broke the news earlier this month on the supportive housing project’s plans to join this Capitol Hill neighborhood just off Broadway near Broadway Hill Park as the county program moved beyond its earlier unsuccessful acquisitions of hotels. The Capitol Hill deal comes under the Health Through Housing measure passed by the King County Council in 2021 which aims to house up to 1,600 people experiencing chronic homelessness by using hundreds of millions of dollars raised from a sales tax on properties in Seattle and five nearby cities. The E Republican apartment building started construction more than five years ago in a process that was delayed and then brought to a standstill during the pandemic. The development’s marketing name for the project still hangs in blue letters on the building.

The county says All Health Through Housing properties will include 24/7 staffing and on-site supports “to help vulnerable people regain health and stability.”

In the project, the Lavender Rights Project and Chief Seattle Club are taking on the challenge of developing new social housing. Continue reading

King County’s $11.6M acquisition of Capitol Hill apartment building part of plan to house 1,600 homeless people — UPDATE

King County’s quest to house 1,600 homeless people by 2028 will include new homes on Capitol Hill as officials try to improve the results of the challenged program behind the acquisition.

According to the latest efforts to document the crisis, there are an estimated 13,400 people living homeless in the county and the Department of Community and Human Services estimates more than 40,000 people are in need of homelessness services around Seattle and the county over the course of the year.

According to records, the county has purchased a four-story, 35-unit apartment building just west of the intersection and Broadway Hill Park for $11.6 million. The $322,000 per unit price to the private developer that constructed the building is in line with recent similar transactions in the neighborhood.

The deal is the latest under the Health Through Housing measure passed by the King County Council in 2021 which aims to house up to 1,600 people experiencing chronic homelessness by using hundreds of millions of dollars raised from a sales tax on properties in Seattle and five nearby cities. Continue reading

As Regional Homelessness Authority shapes $11B plan, Seattle outreach stats show better results but more than half still declining shelter

Officials say outreach efforts to move people into shelter in Seattle and King County were more successful in late 2022 but more than half of those reached were still declining help, even as the region experienced wild swings in weather from extreme heat to icy cold.

According to the city, 186 people were successfully enrolled at a shelter service between October and December, 22% more than the same period in 2021. The “enrollment rate” of 49.2% means more than half are still declining help — but officials say that number has also improved. Only 46.1% accepted shelter in the fourth quarter of 2021. Continue reading

City says tents to be cleared from area around Capitol Hill church by Seattle’s homelessness Unified Care Team

The City of Seattle team dedicated to homelessness outreach and “resolution” of camps is slated to clear tents, belongings, and debris from encampments that have formed on the blocks around 13th and Howell on Capitol Hill before the end of the month.

The tents and camping have been the subject of complaints including concerns from parishioners and officials at the area’s Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption. “They are afraid to come. We want them to get [the homeless] help, we want them to get off the streets,” the church community’s president told KOMO. “We don’t have the infrastructure as a small church to do that ourselves.”

The situation has now been widely reported and picked up at the national level by outlets including Fox News.

A spokesperson for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority provided a statement to CHS that echoed what the organization has been telling national media. “We are aware of this particular encampment, and are in communication with outreach teams, but the need for housing and outreach is much greater than current capacity,” the spokesperson said, referring CHS to Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office and the City Hall department that remains tasked with clearances of camps in the city despite the formation of the regional authority. Continue reading

‘Rapid Acquisition’ — Another market-rate development on Capitol Hill will shift to affordable housing with LIHI’s $21M deal for Harvard Ave E building

The design rendering for the Harvard Lofts building

(Image: LIHI)

It’s a seller’s market for medium-sized, newly constructed Capitol Hill apartment buildings. Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute announced this week it has acquired another building on Capitol Hill with its $21 million purchase of the Harvard Lofts development with plans to offer housing to people at risk of homelessness.

“Thank you to City of Seattle Office of Housing and the State Department of Commerce Rapid Capital Housing Acquisition program for funding,” LIHI said in its announcement. “These public investments enable people living temporarily in tiny houses, shelters and those on the street to secure permanent housing.”

The deal for the newly constructed building just a block or so west from Capitol Hill Station comes amid a flurry of affordable housing activity in the area powered by the Rapid Acquisition program part of the federal American Rescue Plan that allows Seattle and the Washington State Department of Commerce to leverage local, state, and federal funding in grants to organizations like LIHI. Continue reading

After $38M Capitol Hill acquisition, YWCA opening new affordable building in 2023 — UPDATE

A design rendering of the building

By Jadenne Radoc Cabahug, CHS reporting intern

By summer, the northeast corner of E Denny and Harvard across from Twice Sold Tales and the Pantages House will open 93 new affordable homes for residents at risk of homelessness after YWCA’s $38 million deal to acquire a planned microhousing development.

The YWCA Seattle King Snohomish chapter acquired the new building on 800 E Denny Way to be used as permanent affordable housing designated to address barriers for low-income households that are at-risk or experiencing homelessness in Seattle. The building has 93 units that are studios and one-bedroom.

CORRECTION: CHS originally reported the building would be focused on providing LGBTQIA+ inclusive housing for women. YWCA has clarified that the building “will be open to people of all genders.”

“This is one community project that we hope will be a benefit to those that want to live in Capitol Hill, and particularly in the Seattle area where it’s very expensive to live,” Patricia Hayden, YWCA’s chief program officer of King County said. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Knitting together mutual aid with warm hats and winter socks in Cal Anderson Park

As scary as their name might sound, the Capitol Hill Knitters of Doom brought gifts of joy and warmth to Cal Anderson Park last week, a good reminder that we probably all can do small things to help bring more comfort to the neighborhood.

“Those who knit and crochet (are) those who are naturally generous,” one knitter told a television news crew there to cover the group’s efforts. “We all make so much more than we can use ourselves.” Continue reading

To help find more units for people experiencing homelessness to become renters, Regional Homelessness Authority landlord incentive program provides ‘guaranteed rent’ and ‘good tenant’ coaching

(Image: City of Seattle)

Seattle’s small landlords and those involved with family-owned properties could become a bigger part of solutions to the region’s housing crisis under a new incentive program from the Regional Homelessness Authority designed to make it easier for people without a place to live to rent existing units in the city.

The new package offers private building owners including smaller owners of individual properties incentives including guaranteed rent payment managed by a third party, “good tenant” and “good landlord” coaching to help people transition into the rental environment, and ongoing “human services” support from the authority in exchange for using “alternative screening criteria to promote maximum acceptance of referrals” from the program. Continue reading