Dozens of people gathered in City Hall’s Bertha Knight Landes room on a Friday afternoon for the last meeting of the One Table coalition, the vaunted regional push to align to end homelessness and the message was clear — thinkers, practitioners and planners from Seattle to Auburn believe that the solution to homelessness is more money and more housing.
And with that, over a fruit spread and coffee, the One Table effort ended, having created a list of recommended actions as a final product.
The participants, which included members of city staff, representatives of nonprofits and housing evangelists, were split among a number of small tables — a point jokingly raised by Mayor Jenny Durkan — to discuss two prompts.
One by one, they reported that, to end homelessness, the region needs more housing, treatment options for people suffering from addiction and the money to pay for all of it.
In past months, One Table has served as a vehicle for policy announcements, such as Durkan’s legislation to increase the number of “bridge housing” units by 25 percent and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus’ commitment to work with schools and implement additional renter protections in her city.
King County Executive Dow Constantine announced in June a proposal to bond against future hotel-motel tax revenues to the tune of $100 million — on top of the $87 million that was earmarked for the same purpose in 2016 — that can be used to build units for people earning between 30 and 80 percent of the area median income. Constantine has also put forward a controversial plan that would, between 2021 and 2043, use $180 million of hotel-motel tax dollars to invest in Safeco Field, where the Mariners play. Activists and King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, though, have called for more of that revenue to go to housing rather than the stadium.
And in May, Constantine and Durkan signed a memorandum of understanding between the city and county to better coordinate homelessness investments across the region.
Those reforms include coordinating on future funding for homelessness services, aligning contract language for the monitoring of the programs funded and improving the Homeless Management Information System, which holds information about homeless clients who interact with services provided by the city and county.
The deadline for more specific governance reform recommendations is Dec. 1.
It also established a Homeless Services and Housing Governance Partnership between the city, county, All Home and other regional partners. All Home is the existing countywide structure that evolved out of the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, which, famously, did not end homelessness.
Critics of All Home pointed out that, although the organization was the conduit through which federal dollars to combat homelessness flowed, it had no enforcement capability. Ultimately, All Home could only broker deals and issue recommendations, but had to rely on the participating cities and county government to follow through on agreed-upon policies.
Of the discussions and presentations at the final One Table meeting, only one went so far as to present a potential solution.
Assessor John Wilson took to the podium and loaded up a video arguing for Blokables, a form of prefab modular housing that significantly reduces the cost of building housing.
The first Blokable project in the area is now live in Edmonds, Wilson said. And, if Blokables can provide the housing, Wilson knows the most likely areas for development.
“The fact is, I’ve got land,” Wilson said, proceeding to lift up a number of parcels of land owned by various government agencies that are proximate to transit, as well as privately-owned plots including a former Sam’s Club site on Aurora Avenue.
The site is 144,000 square feet, and the owners are willing to use it for housing, Wilson said, though there are no plans to do so yet.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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