Courtesy Photo, King County

King County Council approves funding for affordable housing

Small increase in sales tax to support program

The King County Council on Tuesday, Oct. 13 gave the go-ahead to an unprecedented investment to target help to the people experiencing homelessness who are the hardest to reach.

“I believe that government is people coming together to do collectively what we cannot do individually,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, prime sponsor of the Health through Housing proposal, in a county news release. “And nowhere is that more true than in addressing the challenges that prevent all King County residents from having a safe and stable home. This unprecedented investment will provide a stable and long-term funding stream to house upwards of 2,000 people living chronically homeless, as well as behavioral health care. People experiencing chronic homelessness are bearing the brunt of inequality in our region and need housing and support services to empower their path to health and stability.”

Backed by a 0.1% sales tax increase, the legislation will provide permanent, supportive housing for those deemed “chronically homeless” – people who reside in a place not meant for human habitation for at least a year, and with serious physical or behavioral health issues.

The county will bond against a portion of the money raised ensuring immediate access to up to $400 million.

The Kent City Council voted last week to impose the sales tax to keep about $2.8 million per year in the city rather than the funds going to the county for its program to house the chronically homeless. Several other cities also imposed the tax prior to the county adopting the measure.

About 4,500 people are considered chronically homeless in King County, according to the Homeless Management Information Service. The legislation will create space for up to 2,000 individuals.

The state Legislature in its 2020 session granted authority for local governments to adopt the small sales tax to fund affordable housing. King County plans to bond against future tax revenues and use the funds to buy existing hotels, motels and nursing homes around the county and convert them into affordable, supportive housing for people who have struggled to access and maintain housing.

“By their vote today (Oct. 13), the County Council moves our region one step closer to ending the trauma of homelessness for up to 2,000 individuals and families throughout our region who are living every day without the safety and dignity of a place to call home,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “With this initiative, we have a unique and extraordinary opportunity to make a real, observable difference in the crisis of homelessness, and I look forward to working throughout King County to make that happen.”

The Health Through Housing program is part of the biennial budget proposal, now in front of council, and includes two ordinances; one that establishes the sales tax and another that creates the Health Through Housing Fund.

“Adopting these measures is an important opportunity that we must take to reach our most vulnerable neighbors experiencing chronic homelessness,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, co-sponsor of the ordinance establishing the Health through Housing Fund. “We need a greater inventory of affordable housing that we can target for use by those in our community struggling the most to make ends meet – those with low to no income. This will make a big difference in helping us with that task. It will take all of us, working together on this and other future measures, to end homelessness.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in northwest

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about schools reopening during a past news conference. (Screenshot courtesy of TVW)
Masks required at big outdoor events; vaccine mandates expanded

Governor’s mask order takes effect Sept. 13.

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
Why burning our trash may not be as bad as it sounds

Understanding waste-to-energy’s financial and environmental impact in King County.

People hold up signs in protest of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest proclamations during a Rally for Medical Freedom on Aug. 25 in Buckley. Photo by Alex Bruell/Sound Publishing
State workers get incentive to comply with vaccine mandate

An agreement between the state and their union also provides for some leeway in meeting the deadline.

Matt Axe, the Wildfire and Forest Resiliency Coordinator with the King Conservation District, speaks to homeowner Anita Kissee-Wilder about fire reduction strategies at her home in North Bend on Aug. 24. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record.
King County braces for more wildfires in rural areas

Firefighters have already responded to a number of large fires.

Juanita High School student Ria Mahon. Courtesy photo
Student brings awareness to menstrual health among Puget Sound’s homeless

When Ria Mohan, a junior of Juanita High School in Kirkland, had… Continue reading

t
New data dashboard tracks COVID-19 risk for unvaccinated, vaccinated people

Information compiled by Public Health – Seattle & King County

This 2019 security footage at the Cenex gas station in Black Diamond shows Anthony Chilcott on his phone before entering, and driving off with, Carl Sanders’ Ford Raptor and Monkey, his poodle, in the front seat. Courtesy photo
Oversight office releases scathing report on King County Sheriff’s Office

Report analyzes 2019 killing of Anthony Chilcott by deputies.

Close-up hand using phone in night time on street. File photo
King County Council steps closer to establishing hate crime hotline

The program is aimed at reducing the number of unreported hate crimes.

A Link light rail train travels underneath the University of Washington during testing to open the new line to Northgate. COURTESY PHOTO, Sound Transit
Northgate Link light rail testing moves into final stages

Three new north Seattle stations opening Oct. 2

Gov. Jay Inslee (left) bumps elbows with Auburn Vaccine Clinic staff member Mary Johnson (right) on June 22, 2021. Inslee visited the clinic to promote vaccinations in lower King County. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
COVID-19 surge puts strain on local hospitals

Delta is the predominate strain in Washington.

C-17 at Joint Base Lewis McChord airstrip. (Photo courtesy of United States Military)
King County Councilman calls for plan to help Afghan refugees settle here

Washington state expects roughly 6,000 refugees to come from Afghanistan.