Housing Affordability and Homelessness
Six years after declaring homelessness an emergency, our county leadership has allowed the crisis to get worse. Study after study has told us what it will take to address this situation, and what we need now are leaders who will act with urgency and be accountable to solve the most important issue in King County.
We have to move from a reactive system that only addresses the problem once it’s too late, to one that is pro-active.
According to the latest Point-in-Time count of individuals that are unhoused in Seattle/King County there were about 12,000 residents living in shelters, tents and vehicles. More than 3,000 people are experiencing chronic homelessness, meaning they have been unhoused for over one year and are experiencing an underlying health issue.
This means over 75% of individuals experiencing homelessness are transitory and can be served by addressing basic needs like rental assistance or other diversion services to get them housed and stable.
To quickly and systemically address homelessness we must take a multi-faceted approach for those who are experiencing transitory and chronic homelessness, along with keeping individuals and families on the verge of homelessness housed.
As Executive, I will prioritize:
- Working in coordination with our Regional Homelessness Authority along with community based organizations to dramatically scale up the direct aid to people experiencing homelessness.
- Investing in proven solutions to help people into housing with wraparound services that fit their needs through the newly created JustCare program.
- Expanding community based substance use disorder and mental health treatment facilities.
- Increase the number of regional access points and outreach workers to help individuals through the Coordinated Entry Program.
- Quickly expand emergency housing options, which are not replacements for permanent housing but a means to help individuals find a safe place inside.
- Hotels, Tiny Homes, Repurposed Civic Properties
It is many times cheaper to keep someone housed than it is to get them out of homelessness. In order for this region to alleviate homelessness we must stem the flow of individuals who become unhoused. We must expand diversion services but as King County Executive, I will work to create more affordable housing.
- Collaborate with cities throughout our county to invest in building thousands of new affordable housing units so that every family in King County can afford a home.
- Work with our Regional Homelessness Authority to build enough permanent supportive housing with wrap around services to provide people struggling with chronic homelessness the services they need to thrive.
- Develop underutilized civic properties already owned by the County for social housing.
- Work to provide alternative pathways to homeownership and housing stability for families in communities of color who have been excluded from traditional means to build intergenerational wealth for decades, particularly for communities in unincorporated King County like the one where I was raised.
In addition to all this work the County must be a leader in partnership with the City, State and Federal government to tackle the truly systemic issues that creates homelessness. Everything from reforming our broken criminal legal system, breaking the schools to prison pipeline, investing in our foster youths and investment in behavioral and mental health resources.
No one person or jurisdiction can do this alone. It will require new leaders with the urgency and humility to work together.