There are currently 12,000 homeless residents living in Seattle. Soon, some of those residents will get to move into brand new apartments overlooking Seattle’s Space Needle and Puget Sound.
The 165 new units are located in the posh Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The city is paying for this by using a portion of the $1.9 trillion federal covid relief package.
King5 reports, “According to projections, the city will add a total of 2,023 housing units for homeless residents by the end of 2023. This is an increase of nearly 50% compared to the end of 2019.”
The city is spending $50 million, equalling $300,000 per unit. Developers say this is two-three times higher than what it costs to build. The city is desperate to get the homeless off the street and public parks and into government-subsidized housing. The city is willing to pay market rates to developers to purchase the new buildings.
Seattle’s Low Income Housing Unit (LHI) executive director said, “Affordable, deeply affordable permanent housing is the solution. It just takes so long to build, so in the meantime, why should we let vulnerable people, women, seniors live on the street?”
LIH already manages 40 properties with 1,535 units. The three new buildings will tip their permanent housing units over 1,600. They also own and operate two hotel shelters and nine tiny house villages.
Seattle’s Mayor, Jenny Durkan, is reported saying, “The deals will house people quickly and cheaply, relative to the time and cost required to develop low-income projects from scratch. The move being likened to “almost like a microwave oven for housing. The city expects the three buildings to be occupied by the end of the year.
Critics of Durkan and the city’s plan cite city hall’s policies as the bigger issue. Tenants that can pay full price are finding it harder and harder to find rentals. According to the Seattle Times, “The city’s median rent for studio apartments was $1,523 in March 2020, $1,194 in January 2021, and $1,500 last month.”
Mayor Durkan extended the eviction moratorium for the sixth time through January 2022. The council passed two more rental protection laws this year. One requires landlords to give tenants six months’ notice of any rent increase. The other requires landlords to pay for the tenant’s moving costs if they choose to move rather than pay a rent increase of 10% or more.
These policies are keeping landlords from being in the rental housing business. Landlords feel it is too risky to house someone under these circumstances. According to Fox News, “Of Windermere’s landlord clients, there was a 48% increase in rental homes sold to owner-occupants in 2020. And so far in 2021, there’s been a 35% increase on top of that…2020 saw 4,858 fewer properties registered as [a] rental property. It was a drop of 14%.”
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