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Chair Lewis, Council Colleagues Vote to Fast-Track Permanent Supportive Housing

Goal to quickly and affordably scale housing with services inspires work of Committee

Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia), Chair of the Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments, together with his colleagues, voted to amend the land use code and allow Seattle to quickly and affordably create more housing options for our homeless neighbors by exempting permanent supportive housing from several development mandates.  

Council Bill 119975 would modify regulations for the development of permanent supportive housing with wrap-around services such as counseling, mental health support, and drug and alcohol treatment. 

“In my role as chair, and as someone who lives and works near encampments, I see on a daily basis ways in which we can — and should — do better by the people who live and work here, too.  I believe today’s vote puts us on a path to build more permanent supportive housing to provide the wrap-around services for people experiencing homelessness that will be the difference-maker in the trajectory of their lives,” Lewis said.

According to the Third Door Coalition, an alliance of service providers and small business owners, 98% of chronically homeless people in King County would accept a permanent supportive housing placement if offered, and 90-95% of residents placed in such housing are still housed a year later. 

Current land use mandates create longer-than-needed processes and make permanent supportive housing projects more expensive. According to estimates made by the Third Door Coalition, Lewis’ legislation could reduce the per-unit cost of permanent supportive housing from $331,953 to $284,200, a savings of $47,753.  

The legislation would modify land use code by exempting permanent supportive housing from design review, and removing on-site requirements such as bicycle parking, among other waivers.

Additionally, the legislation recognizes the City’s history of redlining, which has contributed to the fact that Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities disproportionately experience homelessness. Permanent supportive housing is designed to respond to trauma and strengthen the connections and bonds that fortify our community.

“A vibrant housing system that cared for the entire community is an aspect of City-living that Seattle has failed to establish, and has in turn perpetuated systemic racism through its land use codes,” Lewis said. “Recognizing that this has contributed to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities disproportionately experiencing homelessness, today’s vote both acknowledges this reality, and acknowledges the Council’s obligation to reverse these historic inequities and help those affected access safe, culturally appropriate supportive housing.”

The legislation is scheduled for a vote of the Full Council on March 1, 2021.

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