If ever there were a time, invest in affordable homes and shelter now!
For the rest of our lives, we will remember the phrase “Stay home, stay healthy.” Yet, according to the 2020 Point in Time count, nearly 22,000 people in Washington have no home to return to for protection, no assurance of being able to stay healthy. Of those, nearly half were completely unsheltered, even further exposed to the dangers of living outside – the pandemic, deadly winter storms, and daily threats to their peace and safety. While the risks of unsheltered homelessness have increased, Washington’s homeless shelter capacity significantly reduced in the last year, exacerbating our crisis.
Research shows that permanent affordable housing is the solution to ending homelessness. Yet, no community in Washington has nearly enough affordable homes. Over 72% of Washington’s 221,000 extremely low-income households were paying more than 50% of their income on rent even before the COVID-19 pandemic. These are the very households hit the hardest by the economic recession – employees with volatile hours, gig workers, those with disabilities living on SSDI or SSI, seniors, low-income students and others. Significant investments in affordable housing are needed in order to end homelessness, increase housing stability for those on the margins, and stimulate our economy.
The Capital Budget must invest deeply in affordable housing and homelessness to ensure Washington makes progress towards the day when every person has the opportunity for a safe and healthy place to sleep at night.
Please make the following investments in the 2021-23 Capital Budget:
· $240 million for the Housing Trust Fund.
The Housing Trust Fund invests in affordable homes statewide, including Permanent Supportive Housing. Last year, the Housing Trust Fund received many more applications than it was able to accept due to limited funding. But without the Housing Trust Fund, most affordable housing isn’t able to proceed – especially when the project intends to build homes for extremely low and very low income households.
· $10 million to preserve affordable housing at risk of loss.
The loss of affordable housing is a significant problem that threatens to displace people from their homes and reduce our state’s affordable housing portfolio. The loss of affordable housing, such as USDA funded housing in rural Washington, happens when the use restrictions expire that require affordable rents. A new $10 million from the Capital Budget will allow affordable housing providers to quickly step in to purchase the properties and keep them affordable.
· $70 million for the rapid acquisition of properties newly for sale due to the economic downturn.
The recession offers a unique opportunity to purchase properties newly for sale – such as hotels or multifamily housing – which can be converted to shelter or affordable housing. Washington missed an opportunity during the great recession to purchase properties, but we can create a silver lining in the current one by creating a rapid acquisition fund to increase shelter and affordable housing.
· $40 million for enhanced shelter capacity grants.
At time when Washington has lost shelter beds during a pandemic – strategic investments in shelter are sorely needed. Enhanced shelter capacity grants would help providers shelter individuals experiencing chronic homelessness by funding new shelter beds and funding capital needs for existing shelter beds.
The undersigned organizations urge you to make the above investments, and we thank you for your leadership.
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This form was created inside of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.