Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Affordable Housing and Alleviating Homelessness

Homelessness and Affordable Housing: My Priorities

  • Retain existing affordable housing and acquire and build additional affordable housing;
  • Focus on building new affordable units near transit hubs – Transit-Oriented Development (TOD);
  • Protect renters from discrimination related to source of income;
  • Provide protections to tenants based on no fault eviction and relocation assistance.
  • Ensure that those experiencing homelessness can access critical health care and other services, including assistance finding permanent housing;
  • Increase access to emergency shelters and to 24/7 emergency supportive services

First Term Accomplishments:

  • Obtained funding in the 2019-2020 Biennial Budget for transitional modular housing units;
  • Sponsored legislation prohibiting landlords or home sellers from denying people housing based on how they would pay for the unit (source of income discrimination);
  • Obtained funding for additional emergency and service-enhanced 24/7 shelter space;
  • Increased access to aid in finding housing for those experiencing homelessness;
  • Obtained funding for several affordable housing projects.  These projects included affordable Transportation Oriented Development (TOD) at North Seattle College and at YouthCare on Capitol Hill.

Second Term Priorities:

The loss of affordable housing, economic inequality, systemic racism, unemployment and falling federal funding for low-income housing and services are all factors in the crisis we’re currently witnessing in King County.  Addressing housing stability and reducing homelessness requires a holistic approach, and includes increasing the availability of affordable housing and access to emergency shelters, 24/7 enhanced shelters with services and supportive housing.

In my second term, as Chair of the King County Board of Health and the Council’s Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, I’ll continue working to get critical services and health care – including mental and behavioral health – delivered directly to people experiencing homelessness.  I’ll also work to fund solutions that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

I will continue fighting to protect renters/tenants and to preserve the affordable units we already have.  I’ll work for programs that provide rental housing and assistance through housing choice vouchers, subsidized housing, moderate-income housing, management of federally funded housing and importantly through the acquisition and revitalization of existing apartment buildings as well as building new units. 

I am also now the lead for the Council on the legislation creating a King County Regional Homelessness Authority in partnership with the City of Seattle.  The goal is to better leverage and consolidate the resources of both the County and the City, to increase efficiency and streamline service delivery.  The announcement can be found here.

The County plays an important role in supporting the creation of affordable housing units. If I am re-elected, I will continue to advocate for increased funding at the State level (and am very pleased the Legislature did make a good start, as well as included $175 million in the Housing Trust Fund, in this past session). I also will look for revenue sources that could be tapped into for the creation of these units, either by diverting funds or re-allocating resources.  In addition, I served on the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force for its 1½ years tenure that submitted its five-year action plan last December. Earlier this year, the Council approved extending the Task Force as a committee of the Growth Management Planning Council to develop implementation of the Task Force’s December 2018 goals and actions needed to create 44,000 units within the next four+ years and 244,000 units by 2040. We included funding for 3 new FTE. The new committee’s major task ahead will be to address how we will achieve our goals, and I’m pleased to say I am serving on the new committee.

In my second term, I’ll continue to use my leadership positions to fight for funding to create and retain more affordable housing, especially located near transit hubs, and to get people the services they need, including assistance finding housing. 

Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are daunting, complex issues, but I have been working to address the root causes.  As a member of the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force and One Table, I know that a good supply of affordable housing is critical but not enough.

With economic inequality, systemic racism, rising displacement and falling federal funding for low-income housing and services, addressing housing stability and reducing homelessness will require a holistic approach.

Some individuals who are experiencing homelessness may need support with challenges they experience such as substance use disorder, mental health challenges, reentry into the community post-incarceration, workforce readiness and access to health care and affordable transportation.  

Although much remains to be done, we have passed legislation and invested in alleviating homelessness.  In my first term and as a member of the Council’s Budget Leadership Team last year, I was able to get funding into our 2019-2020 Biennial Budget for modular housing, additional emergency as well as enhanced 24/7 shelter space, increased access to aid in finding housing and several affordable housing projects (including a TOD (Transportation Oriented Development) at North Seattle College).  The Budget was approved unanimously this past November. 

I will continue to concentrate on the implementation plan and governance structure of the voter-approved Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy. The levy provides support to reduce homelessness and provide greater housing stability for veterans, seniors, and vulnerable communities throughout King County.

Providing these crucial services can reduce homelessness, and I am focused on making sure these programs are funded and well implemented!

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