Mayor Durkan Announces Bold Action to Invest in 600 Apartments for Homeless Individuals in Response to COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

Office of Housing Accelerates Seattle Housing Levy Funding to Support Proven, Long-term Solution to Homelessness 

Seattle (August 12, 2020) – To bring more people inside during a public health crisis, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that the City of Seattle Office of Housing is taking bold action to invest in 600 new units of permanent supportive housing in six buildings. This initiative capitalizes on Seattle’s expertise in funding evidence-based housing for people experiencing homelessness and will bring an unprecedented level of housing online by the end of 2021. These new homes will be in addition to the 3,700 permanent supportive housing units currently in service and over 350 units under construction that have been awarded funding. 

“From healthcare to the criminal legal system to education, every system has deepened racial inequity across our Country – this inequity is deeply evident with the disproportional impacts of housing and homelessness on our Black, Indigenous and communities of color,” said Mayor Durkan. “The City of Seattle is making a significant investment to create more housing in our community. With this investment, we are breaking the mold by developing new innovative strategies to build even more permanent supportive housing, more quickly for our neighbors who need it most.” 

The Office of Housing is committing approximately $60 million from the Seattle Housing Levy to be leveraged with state and federal resources to build and operate the housing. Applicants for the funds were required to deliver strict cost and time savings, achieved through partnerships with experienced builders, alternative construction methods, among other strategies. The application and funding timeline was condensed to ensure the new units will come on-line as quickly as possible – only 60 days have gone by since the application was issued in June. Five organizations with long-standing expertise in addressing homelessness will provide wrap-around support services to keep people stably housed.  

“Investments in brick and mortar are one of the reasons why I ran for office in 2015. For the last four years, my office has been diligently working on the housing needs in District 5. The hard work of our office and the Office of Housing has come to fruition, delivering on a promise to my constituents who are concerned for the wellbeing of folks living unsheltered in my district. This is a dream come true,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez, (District 5, North Seattle

“Especially during this public health emergency, we must bring people experiencing homelessness inside to safe, supportive housing as quickly as possible. We are proud to make substantial investments in the proven solution to homelessness and to support community-based organizations with track-records of success in serving our vulnerable neighbors,” said Emily Alvarado, Director of the Seattle Office of Housing. 

“I have seen the transformative impact a safe stable home has on my patients who have experienced homelessness. Housing is healthcare,” said Kevonya Elzia, a Registered Nurse at Neighborcare Health, a healthcare organization with a mission of providing comprehensive health care to people who have difficulty accessing care. “In order for us to breathe metaphorically and physically, our basic human needs must be met. The COVID-19 public health crisis means those experiencing homelessness are even more vulnerable. It is urgent to get people inside and into stable homes.” 

“Systemic racism causes Native and all Black, Indigenous and People of Color to be disproportionately impacted by homelessness and COVID-19. Affordable housing and affordable housing policy must be anti-racist, and permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable people experiencing chronic homelessness must also be anti-racist,” said Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club. “We look forward to the opportunity to provide indigenous informed permanent supportive housing where native design and cultural services and programs are at the center.” 

“The investment the City is making today is a big step toward solving chronic unsheltered homelessness that the cross-sector Third Door Coalition is calling for,” said Paul Lambros Chief Executive Officer of awardee Plymouth Housing and board member of the Third Door Coalition, a group of businesses, service providers, advocates and academics leading efforts to solve chronic homelessness in 5 years in King County. “Compounding inequities, such as systemic racism, shut people out of opportunities to meet their basic needs and directly contribute to the cycle of chronic homelessness. Permanent supportive housing is the solution that ends this crisis. Over Plymouth’s 40-year history, we’ve seen time and again that a stable home and individualized support truly transforms lives.” 

Historically, the City has utilized essential federal resources to support provider operations and maintenance of the buildings and supportive services for residents through Project Based Housing Choice Vouchers and the Continuum of Care Program of the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The City of Seattle is joined by a coalition of philanthropic investors to recognize the importance of these federal resources to ensure these 600 homes come to fruition. 

“I applaud the City of Seattle’s leadership in building what we know works – Permanent Supportive Housing. This is a solid investment of City resources. However, to keep the lights on and provide necessary services to residents, partnership with the federal government is critical to ensure these 600 new homes truly change lives,”  said Sonya Campion, President of the Campion Advocacy Fund. “I’m proud to join other philanthropists and businesses to support this proposal. We all have a part to play to make sure everyone in our community has a safe place to call home.” 

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) offers non-time limited affordable housing and voluntary supportive services, that may include counseling, behavioral and physical health support and alcohol and drug treatment. Local research shows that 90-95% of PSH residents remain housed a year later. PSH also delivers public cost savings because people who are stably housed do not access public services such as emergency medical services and in-patient behavioral healthcare.   

2020 Permanent Supportive Housing Pilot Investments 

Total New Affordable Rental Units: 599 

Funding Awards 

Conditional Award 

The mission of the Office of Housing (OH) is to create strong, healthy communities, prevent displacement and increase opportunities for people of all income levels to live in Seattle. OH supports development and preservation of affordable multifamily homes, homeownership opportunities, policy and program development, free weatherization services and home repair loans and stewardship of city-funded affordable homes.  

More information on the Seattle Housing Levy and other affordable housing programs can be found at  www.seattle.gov/housing.