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Seattle City Council Approves Mayor Durkan’s Legislation to Increase Bridge Housing and Shelter Capacity by 25 Percent

Seattle (June 18) – The members of the Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to approve Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s legislation to increase the number of bridge housing and shelter units in 90 days by 25 percent to serve more than 500 additional people every night. The Mayor’s plan will help people experiencing homelessness move into safer places where they are more likely to access services.

“With so many people living in Seattle unsheltered in inhumane, dangerous conditions, we must act quickly to move people into safer places where they can access services. City Council quickly moved to approve my plan to invest resources into expanding badly-needed bridge housing and shelter, which is currently near capacity. When people have access to shelter, they’re more likely to take advantage of services like behavioral health, hygiene services, and employment support, and then move to permanent housing,” said Mayor Durkan. “We all have to contribute to solutions to this crisis, which is why we’re opening City Hall more people each night. In the coming days, I will sign this plan into law so we can continue our City’s urgent action to address this crisis.”

Currently, Seattle has 2,032 shelter spaces, which are 93% full each night. Under Mayor Durkan’s legislation, the City of Seattle will serve more than 500 people every night through a series of options being explored, including:

  • Expanding and creating shelter capacity to create 233 additional spaces at places such as the Navigation Center;
  • Creating 75 new space of bridge housing at Haddon Hall through a master lease;
  • Expanding 100 spaces at City Hall beginning on June 29;
  • Supporting of Whittier Heights Women’s Village, a tiny home village serving 19 chronically homeless women in 16 tiny homes; and
  • Opening 46 tiny homes in South Lake Union and 30 new tiny homes at 18th and Yesler following community engagement and site approval. These tiny homes would serve approximately 95 people.

The legislation will also allow the City to help maintain 163 shelter beds that would otherwise go offline. Mayor Durkan’s approach includes a variety of strategies to create new resources to bring people off the streets and into safer places. The legislation also provides dedicated beds to serve individuals living unsheltered referred by the City’s Navigation team. Providing more capacity for people living unsheltered to move into safer places like enhanced shelters and tiny home villages makes it easier for them to access services including substance use treatment, mental health care, food, employment support, and case management professionals.

“The passage of this ordinance dedicates funding to get more people off the streets into something better than sleeping in the mud, under our bridges or on sidewalks. Moving people inside increases public safety and public health for our unhoused and housed neighbors alike. We know that shelter beds and tiny houses are not the end goal, but they offer steps towards stabilization,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia), chair of the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee. “I will continue to advocate for more permanent affordable housing, but we as a City have a moral obligation to do what we can immediately.”

“This plan shows the City is improving and investing in programs we know are working. We know people who seek enhanced shelter services with social workers or case managers are five times more likely to go into housing than those just seeking shelter with mats on the floor,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide) Vice Chair of the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee. “While this plan gets more than 500 people off the street and into safe and secure places, ultimately, we know as a City, we can’t lose sight of the long-term vision of providing more affordable housing. Only when we provide affordable housing can we truly have a lasting impact on our homelessness crisis.”

“Our homelessness strategy investments are focused in three areas—prevention, emergency services, and housing. As we continue to work together to identify additional resources in our region, the legislation enacted today are consistent with the City’s approach to homelessness with a focus on expanding our enhanced shelter model to move people inside into safer places,” said Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle). “The public should also know that the investments funded from this legislation will be held to the new performance standards established last year which helps Council track performance and results on a quarterly basis.”

Under Mayor Durkan, the City of Seattle is continuing its investments in preventing individuals and families from falling into homelessness. In April, Mayor Durkan launched the Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot Program, which will serve approximately 1,000 low-income households to provide a range of critical resources, including rental assistance and utility discounts as applicable.

In addition to efforts to prevent homelessness and respond to the crisis, Mayor Durkan is acting to increase accountability and transparency on the City’s current investments in combating homelessness and advancing regional and community partnerships with cities, King County, philanthropists, and businesses.

Mayor Durkan is also continuing her commitment to more permanent affordable housing: From 2018 to 2021, approximately 2,500 new City-funded affordable rental housing units and over 1,900 new MFTE affordable units will come online. The City currently finances 4,450 units of affordable housing for people exiting homelessness.