Almost 6,000 single adults have been assessed for a program that connects homeless adults with housing since February, but only 46 have been placed in permanent supportive housing, according to King County officials.
That means, on average, 10 of the highest-need homeless single adults get into housing each month in King County. If that rate continued, and the list would not grow, it would take nearly 50 years to get everyone indoors.
The number indicates a severe shortage of permanent supportive housing, said Sherry Hamilton, a spokesperson for King County’s Department of Community and Human Services.
“Coordinated Entry for Single Adults began in a limited way in February, and currently it places people only in permanent supportive housing,” Hamilton wrote in an email.
Coordinated Entry for All is a system in which people experiencing homelessness go to one of five Regional Access Points and undergo an assessment. Depending on their score — with 4 being the least vulnerable to qualify and 17 being the highest score for single adults — they get funneled onto a list that determines when they will get housing if it becomes available.
People who score between 0 and 3 go into a diversion program.
The problem is that housing rarely becomes available.
It takes between three to four years to shepherd a permanent supportive housing project from start to completion, and it’s difficult to find financing to increase the supply of units, said Sharon Lee, executive director at the Low Income Housing Institute.
There are various methods used to fund supportive housing projects, including tax credits, which leverage federal incentives to offset the cost of building. The most competitive is a 9 percent tax credit that requires housing developments make 70 percent of their units affordable. A less competitive 4 percent tax credit requires housing developments make 30 percent of their units affordable.
Lee suggests that the city leverage other funds, such as city bonding capacity, so housing providers can pursue the less competitive 4 percent tax credit to produce the same number of housing units that are affordable.
“We can still substantially increase the amount of permanent supportive housing we are building,” Lee said.
Bonds are a popular method of expanding the pool of money available for affordable housing. The Seattle City Council approved $29 million in bonds for that purpose in November 2016. The tactic has also been raised in the current mayoral campaign.
Read the full May 31 issue.
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. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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