Seattle City Council Unanimously Approves $220,000 for Transitional Housing
Majority Approve $29 Million in Bonds to Finance Affordable Housing
Thank you to everyone who wrote and contacted City Council in support of transitional and affordable housing! Special appreciation goes to the Seattle Human Service Coalition and Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness for their advocacy.
We applaud CM Lisa Herbold’s leadership on restoring funding for transitional housing and for getting the Council to vote to issue $29 million in bonds for low income housing.
The transitional programs that will be able to continue in 2017 thanks to this funding are LIHI’s Columbia Court and “scattered site” houses, as well as programs run by YWCA, Community Psychiatric Clinic, Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, and Dove House.
Herbold needed five Council members to sign a green sheet to add $220,000 to the budget for transitional housing. We thank CM Johnson, Sawant, Juarez and O’Brien for signing this. Herbold spoke eloquently on why the city should backfill HUD funding cuts to transitional housing and that rapid rehousing is not yet a proven program in Seattle’s high cost market. She quoted from a letter received from Mahnaz Eshetu, Refugee Women’s Alliance’s executive director, on the many homeless immigrant/refugee families that need and depend on transitional housing. Because Budget Committee Chair Tim Burgess did not include transitional housing in his budget rebalancing package, Herbold had to propose cuts to other parts of the mayor’s budget. She did this successfully by scraping together funding from three other parts of the budget.
Kshama Sawant stated that just because HUD changes its priorities nationally doesn’t mean the city should cut programs that work for Seattle. She cited last year’s effort to back fill cuts to LIHI’s Urban Rest Stop as an example. Rob Johnson noted that the transitional housing programs would cost the general fund less than $3,000 per unit per year, and that this was cost effective (rapid rehousing cost $11,500 per unit). Sally Bagshaw questioned why programs considered low scoring should be funded. Herbold said that all HUD McKinney programs were not ranked or prioritized before cuts were made by All Home. These programs will have an opportunity in the next year to be judged along with other general fund funded programs.
After much discussion, when the vote was finally taken, all nine Council members voted to support $220,000 for transitional housing!
The vote to issue $29 million in bonds for low income housing had seven Council members supporting this and Burgess and Juarez voting no. Herbold explained her funding plan that included the Growth Fund concept and that this was one of the recommendations included in HALA. The city finances other important capital projects by issuing bonds. If we don’t build the affordable housing now, construction and land costs would only go up in the future. Burgess did not like the concept of the general fund paying interest on the bonds as it would take money away from other city priorities. O’Brien said he supported issuing bonds and that the housing produced would benefit people now, and the relative cost to the general fund out in future years is modest. Sawant had proposed her $160 million 1,000 Homes proposal early that failed to pass. She enthusiastically supported Herbold’s proposal.
The final Council vote on the entire budget is on Monday. Here is an article on the $29 million.