New Year's Wish List: Affordable Housing for WA Cities
SEATTLE - Affordable housing advocates are lining up their priorities for the coming legislative session, and more money for the state's Housing Trust Fund is one of them. It is hard to find affordable rental housing in many parts of Washington State, but it's especially tough in King County, where more than 100,000 households spend over half of their monthly income on rent.
Harry Hoffman, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium (HDC) of King County, says about 1,500 units are ready to build or refurbish in King County alone, but there is not enough funding for one-third of them.
"We look at it as an investment in the future of the state, because this is a sizable amount of the population that we certainly can't just dismiss. More importantly, it's part of a sane infrastructure for any society, to provide housing for those who can't participate in the market."
Hoffman says building or renovating affordable housing can be an economic boost to a neighborhood, but the Housing Trust Fund amounts vary drastically from year to year, making it difficult to plan the projects.
Another goal in the New Year is to focus on what is known as "workforce housing" for people with low-wage jobs that haven't kept pace with high rents, he says. HDC will also ask lawmakers to fund services that help families who are already a step away from homelessness, to avoid it. He notes that in King County, funding for human services has dropped from $20 million in 2006 to less than $1 million today, and he calls the unmet needs "horrific."
"The safety net is very frayed, and any more cuts to the safety-net-type programs basically just are going to increase the number of people who are going to need housing. We're trying to do what we can to help people keep their heads above water. And we're talking about people at the lowest income levels: 30 percent of the area median income and below."
The Housing Development Consortium of King County turns 25 in 2013 and has more than 100 groups and companies as members. Similar organizations serve Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties, and a new one is forming in the Vancouver area. Hoffman says their goals are similar: to help people with housing, services and stability so they can become self-sufficient.
Information about the HDC is available at www.housingconsortium.org. The Washington Housing Trust Fund website is www.commerce.wa.gov.