Inslee announces 'biggest, boldest' legislative package to address homelessness

<p><p>OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday a package of proposals aimed at fighting the state’s homelessness crisis. </p></p><p><p>The plan would spend about $800 million to assist tenants and landlords, build more affordable housing, expand behavioral health services and help transition people into permanent housing. Inslee called the plan a statewide approach that will get people into housing both “rapidly and sustainably.” The money would be spent in the 2022-23 budget year.</p></p><p><p>It’s the “biggest and boldest comprehensive collaborative approach to solve our homelessness crisis to date,” Inslee said.</p></p><p><p>More than two-thirds of funding for this plan would come from federal COVID-19 dollars sent to the state earlier this year, <a href=”https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/Homelessness_PolicyBrief_Dec14.pdf?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=govdelivery” target=”_blank”>according to a policy brief</a>.</p></p><p><p>Inslee’s plan proposes investing $100 million to build about 1,500 permanent supportive housing and affordable housing units. Additionally, he wants to use funding from the state’s capital budget to acquire property, such as tiny homes, with about 2,460 units. The state could then convert that property into emergency shelters or permanent supportive housing, according to his plan.</p></p><p><p>He also proposes a new statewide policy to allow for “middle housing,” such as duplexes, triplexes and courtyard apartments in cities across the state. Currently, many cities in the state have restrictive ordinances, which can limit where these types of homes can be built, Inslee said.</p></p><p><p>“We simply need to build more housing,” Inslee said.</p></p><p><p>Michele Thomas at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance said affordable homes are the solution to homelessness, and Inslee’s budget reflects that.</p></p><p><p>Although the state has increased investment in housing significantly in recent years, Inslee said, it is not enough. It starts with keeping people in their homes, he said.</p></p><p><p>For tenants currently experiencing the loss of water or electricity due to unpaid bills, Inslee proposes creating a grant program. He wants to invest $100 million to do so. To help landlords, Inslee proposes increasing funding to the landlord mitigation program, which gives landlords an incentive to work with tenants receiving rental assistance. Currently the number of applications for the program outpaces the funds available, according to a policy brief.</p></p><p><p>“Not only do we need to help get people off the streets, we need to help them from getting on the street in the first place,” Inslee said.</p></p><p><p>Inslee also proposes increasing funding for behavioral health services. That would mean $48 million to extend supportive housing benefits for those not eligible for Medicaid, provide financial assistance to landlords to maintain housing for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis and improve existing benefits and transition planning for those with behavioral health needs.</p></p><p><p> Inslee will release his full budget proposal Thursday.</p></p><p><p>Inslee’s policy proposals won’t go into effect without legislative approval. The Legislature’s 60-day session begins Jan. 10.</p></p>