The move is one of the first steps taken by Mayor Durkan toward delivering on a key campaign proposal — developing 1,000 tiny houses for people in homelessness and ramping up rental-assistance programs.

Share story

Mayor Jenny Durkan wants to use $11 million in proceeds from the expected sale of a city-owned property to pay for rental assistance and short-term housing options for the homeless.

The move is one of the first steps taken by her administration toward delivering on a key campaign proposal — developing 1,000 tiny houses for people in homelessness and ramping up rental-assistance programs.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Durkan said the sale of the South Lake Union property — a police communications shop at Minor Avenue and Virginia Street — is expected to net around $11 million.

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by BECU, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Mariners, Starbucks and the University of Washington. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.

· Find out more about Project Homeless  

She said she will ask the Seattle City Council to pass a resolution designating the $5.5 million from the sale to her Bridge Housing Investment program, which could include developing tiny homes, modular housing and backyard cottages, to move people off the streets and into a temporary shelter.

An additional $2 million would be earmarked for temporary rent subsidies. The two-year pilot program will provide financial assistance for around 150 single adults and families who are on the waiting list for Seattle Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly known as Section 8) and in danger of becoming homeless in their current homes.

“There is no one solution that is going to fix our crisis,” she said in an interview. “And this kind of project is exactly what we need to be doing to explore our options.”

Durkan said the property sale should close this summer. In the meantime,  she said her team will carve out a “cost-effective”  strategy for spending the money and a plan for locating the shelter resources.

In addition to the new spending on homelessness, $3.5 million in proceeds from the sale would pay for relocating the communications shop and planning for a fire station. The property sale also includes an agreement by the developer to frontload a $2 million Mandatory Housing Affordability payment for affordable housing; those payments are required in exchange for allowing developers to build taller projects.

“We wanted to make sure we squeezed as much as possible out of this one parcel,” Durkan said.

In the run-up to her victory in last fall’s mayoral election, then-candidate Durkan said she would look to build and site 1,000 tiny homes across the city as a short-term solution to a homeless crisis she inherited from previous Mayor Ed Murray.

Since becoming mayor, Durkan has awarded a record $100 million for affordable-housing units funded by a new, expanded city housing levy and other sources.

Durkan said the Bridge Housing Investment could expand the city’s six existing sanctioned homeless encampments with more tiny houses, or require siting new encampments. She also suggested the new spending could support backyard cottages for people in homelessness, such as The BLOCK Project. In the months between now and the close of the sale, the city will consider multiple options for adding capacity, she said.

“We have to be honest (that) we don’t have the short-term capacity to get people off the street,” she said. The shelters for single adults countywide have run at 86 percent capacity over the past year, according to data from All Home, the King County coordinating agency for homeless services, although shelters are typically at capacity in colder months.

If the sale goes through, the proceeds will add to the $34 million in funding for homeless services rebid during the city’s latest contracting round. Among the winners in the process were organizations providing temporary rental subsidy and diversion programs designed to keep people from losing their homes.

At the news conference, Durkan said she met Wednesday morning with mayors from the around the region and emphasized that homelessness is a regional problem that requires help from the county, neighboring cities, the state and the federal government.