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Property sale will fund housing programs—and could restore shelter funding

Originally meant to just fund new programs, proceeds could restore funding to longtime providers

South Lake Union.
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Two stories about low-income housing and homelessness have converged: $11 million in revenue from the sale of a city-owned property in South Lake Union will not only fund Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed rental assistance pilot program, but restore funding for hygiene and emergency services for those experiencing homelessness.

The Seattle City Council voted Tuesday to pass the “Building a Bridge to Housing for All” proposal floated by Durkan last month. Originally, the plan was to use the sale proceeds fund a rental assistance pilot program; some new shelter options, including one targeted toward chronically homeless women; and a new Seattle Fire Department facility—plus relocation money for a Seattle Police Department communications shop that used to operate out of the building.

In a version passed out of City Council on Monday, the $1 million that was going to be used for the fire department will divert to hygiene services for those experiencing homelessness, with the idea that it goes back to programs that were cut in a recent rebidding process. The Seattle Human Services Department is providing bridge funding to get those service providers through the winter.

Advocates, including the Housing for All coalition, which includes many local service providers and advocacy organizations, have been pushing back against loss of funding to organizations like Low Income Housing Institute, SHARE, and WHEEL. Back in December, the coalition delivered a letter to the mayor and city council demanding they find funding to reverse the cuts.

About $5.5 million will go toward getting shelter to people currently experiencing homeless, starting with a project focusing on chronically homeless women this spring, but eventually to other projects too. That potentially includes projects like tiny home villages.

Another $2 million would go toward the rental assistance pilot, which aims to help families that would otherwise be stuck on the Seattle Housing Authority waiting list. That project targets families making 30 to 50 percent area median income, which depends on family size—but for a single person, that’s $20,200 to $33,600 per year, or $28,800 to $48,000 for a family of four.

$1 million, originally intended for the fire department facility, will go toward emergency and hygiene services, specifically nodding to service providers that lost funding—although it could go to any provider. The fire department facility will instead be funded by proceeds from a real estate excise tax.

The sale of the property, located at 1933 Minor Avenue, is expected to close this summer. That will also include a mandatory housing affordability (MHA) payment of more than $7 million, with $2 million upfront.