Federal, city, and county partnership to House America is addressing homelessness with a Housing First approach
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman and U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal joined Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones, and other officials and housing advocates to mark significant progress in its effort re-house households and increase the supply of affordable housing through their House America commitment. As of December 9, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority has distributed more than 1,200 emergency housing vouchers to households experiencing homelessness—one of the best lease-rates in the nation, and the Seattle Office of Housing worked with numerous partners to build nearly 800 units of affordable housing in the city. The event was hosted by the Chief Seattle Club with Executive Director Derrick Belgrade at a supportive local housing project that opened in January.
“HUD is pleased to work with the City of Seattle, under Mayor Harrell’s leadership, to address the housing supply and homelessness challenges the city faces,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman. “The Biden Administration is committed to connecting people to safe, stable, and affordable housing. We are proud of the City’s sustained efforts in leveraging federal resources and collaborating with partners, which have culminated in Seattle exceeding their House America goals.”
In the last two years, the Biden-Harris administration has made unprecedented efforts to end homelessness, which include the White House Housing Supply Action Plan that aims to close the housing supply gap in 5 years; and the American Rescue Plan Act that President Biden signed to deliver one of the largest investments in ending homelessness in U.S. history. As part of the American Rescue Plan legislation passed by Congress in March 2021, Secretary Marcia L. Fudge launched the House America initiative as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s direct response to the crisis of homelessness, which was rising even before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. House America is a national partnership in which HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness called on local, tribal, and state leaders across the country to partner in distributing 70,000 emergency housing vouchers and $5 billion in HOME grants to help more Americans struggling with homelessness to get re-housed, and build additional housing for people experiencing homelessness.
“The American Rescue Plan was one of the most ambitious, progressive, and responsive packages that we have passed in Congress, and it continues to pay dividends even now. The House America initiative and the entire housing assistance package in the American Rescue Plan helped us tackle a housing crisis that had been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “The results of this initiative in Seattle prove that we can get thousands of families housed and stable by working swiftly, decisively, and cooperatively across all levels of government. I was honored to help pass this bold package, and look forward to continuing our work to address the housing crisis in our district.”
Working together, the House America initiative leverages the Housing First approach that the City of Seattle and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority are using. Housing First is an evidence-based strategy recognizing that housing, and the safety and stability it provides, is a necessary first step to helping people rebuild their lives. Housing first is not housing only, but housing first starts with a solid foundation—a safe place to live—and builds on it with healthcare, treatment, social services, and education or work supports.
“President Biden and HUD’s House America initiative shows a true commitment to combating the homelessness crisis by elevating the best solution we have – housing,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Through partnership and urgency, we have created hundreds of units for people to recover and restore their lives. We will not be complacent in our efforts to address unsheltered homelessness – we remain dedicated to setting ambitious housing goals and driving forward the historic investments in our budget necessary to meet and exceed them.”
To date, they have achieved the following progress goals:
- Near full utilization of federally-funded Emergency Housing Vouchers, with 1,234 households already leased and moved in to safe and stable homes. This meets 94% of their goal of 1,314 households housed, with a leasing rate that is one of the best in the nation, and nearly double that of peer cities.
- Creation of 796 new units of affordable housing in the City of Seattle, exceeding our goal of 772 new units. These new units represent 12 new affordable housing buildings that opened in 2022 and are located in 10 different neighborhoods across Seattle.
“When we work together to focus and coordinate resources, we can, in fact, house people,” said Marc Dones, CEO of the Regional Homelessness Authority. “Imagine if we lived in a place where no matter what you look like or where you come from, you could count on having a roof over your head. That’s what we’re working towards, today and every day.”
The event was hosted at ʔálʔal, with guests welcomed by Chief Seattle Club Drummers and Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Derrick Belgrade. ʔálʔal is Chief Seattle Club’s first residential development. The 80-unit building was completed in January 2022 and received funding from the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing, including HOME and CDBG funds from HUD. ʔálʔal serves individuals exiting homelessness and low-income individuals with 24/7 staffing, case managers, and social and cultural services programs for its residents.