Though no one got “100%” of what they wanted, the Metropolitan King County Council voted 8 to 1 Wednesday to create a regional homelessness authority.
“I believe we’ve come up with something pretty good,” said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who represents northwest Seattle. “Absolutely not ideal.”
The plan will now go to the Seattle City Council for a vote, where council members may amend the proposal.
The plan would combine King County and Seattle governments’ scattered homeless funding and policies under one regional authority, a plan recommended by consultants who say the system’s lack of organization has stunted efforts to reduce homelessness here. Many local leaders hope to get the new authority adopted by the end of the year, before new elected officials take their seats on the county and city councils. That process will likely be delayed until the new year if Seattle City Council does amend the plan; or the County Council would have to call a special meeting.
King County will pay almost $57 million to the authority’s $132 million budget, and Seattle city government is contributing $75 million.
The proposal has gone through a major overhaul in the last several weeks, giving more power to elected officials — including those in the county’s suburban cities — than in a previous version of the plan, which relied more on experts on the homeless and housing.
Though suburban cities aren’t currently helping to fund the authority, their buy-in is essential, said Kohl-Welles. This has upset some in the advocacy community, including the Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, who spoke during public comments Wednesday.
“It politicizes the (authority),” Kirlin-Hackett said to the council. “We’ll live with what you do, but the point is … you had a good plan before you.”
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who represents southwest Seattle, Burien and Vashon Island, said he was “disappointed” with the new proposal. He pointed to his work on the All Home Coordinating Board, the current body that coordinates, but doesn’t have much power over, Seattle and King County’s homeless response.
“I know, sitting at the table at All Home, that it is not I doing the heavy lifting,” McDermott said. “It is the experts.”
But though he opposed the changes, McDermott supports the creation of the authority: he voted “yes” Wednesday. The only member voting no was Dave Upthegrove, who represents South King County. He opposes the creation of a new entity and said handing off policy and budget decisions to a new authority “feels to me like we’re shirking the responsibility.”
Seattle City Council is set to discuss the new authority at a committee meeting Thursday.