by Elizabeth Turnbull
On Thursday, Mayor Jenny Durkan unveiled part of her 2021 budget plan, which would allocate close to $34 million toward providing new housing for individuals who are living without a home, in addition to continued support for existing shelters and basic hygiene resources.
The Mayor says her plan will allow for hundreds of individuals who are currently living without shelter to move into “safer spaces.” The plan details the opening of 425 short-term shelter beds and an increased investment in housing support programs such as diversion and rapid-rehousing funds. Such investments would mean that close to 600 new permanent supportive housing units would go online in 2021.
In addition to opening new beds and housing units, the budget plan includes ongoing support for roughly 2,300 existing spaces of shelter, hygiene resources, and existing permanent supportive housing.
Previously, the mayor has been criticized for disregarding CDC guidelines and calling for homeless encampment sweeps during the pandemic, and for the city’s slow response providing services and sanitation facilities to individuals without homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regarding the 2021 new housing plan, Durkan said that her recent announcement is part of an ongoing effort to provide for individuals who struggle to find housing and are more vulnerable to the pandemic.
“As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we will continue to make the necessary investments to protect our most vulnerable communities,” Durkan said in a statement regarding the funds. “Especially as we continue our current resources and bring permanent supportive housing online.”
Funding for the project comes from a one-time $23 million Federal HUD Emergency Solutions Grant as well as state funds designed to provide for individuals who are without homes and vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the City is set to invest over $31 million in one-time COVID-19 funding and an additional $2.75 million in ongoing funding to sustain existing and new stand-up emergency shelters.
In order to create 425 more beds and new housing opportunities for 360 households, the plan involves leasing up to 300 hotel units, providing 125 units of 24/7 shelter, and increasing rapid rehousing to provide housing for 231 households.
The Mayor’s proposal will need City Council approval as part of the 2021 budget process before it can go into effect. Council’s budget process is under way, with adoption expected November 23rd.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist
Featured image by Susan Fried