Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the launch of her proposed Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot Program, which focuses on preventing households from falling into homelessness while on the waitlist for longer-term assistance. Beginning in April, the City will begin serving approximately 1,000 low-income households to provide a range of critical resources, including rental assistance and utility discounts as applicable.
“I know too many Seattle families are struggling. As rents and property taxes continue to rise, individuals are being forced to choose between buying much-needed medications, heating their homes, buying groceries, or paying their rent,” said Durkan. “We can prevent some of our most vulnerable neighbors from falling into homelessness by ensuring they have access to available resources. This new strategy can make the difference between keeping a roof over the heads of struggling families or forcing them onto the streets or into their cars.”
In February, Durkan signed her “Building a Bridge to Housing for All” legislation, which fully funded the pilot. This two-year $2 million pilot will focus on the most vulnerable households on the Seattle Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher waitlist who earn 0-50% of the Area Median Income, live in Seattle, and are currently housed or doubled up. Led by the work of Muslim Housing Services, Neighborhood House, Solid Ground, and YWCA, the pilot is modeled after the Human Services Department’s existing Homelessness Prevention model, which partners with local service provider agencies to prevent homelessness among households prioritized through a vulnerability assessment. The pilot will use a combination of case management and financial assistance, including rental assistance, to stabilize households in need. The Human Services Department will focus on expedited enrollment of eligible households not initially served by the pilot, including enrollment in the Utility Discount Program and other City benefits for which they are eligible to reduce housing and other living costs.
Nearly half of the 1,027 households issued a Seattle Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher in the 2015 lottery experienced homelessness at some point during their time on the waitlist. Fifteen percent of households were housed when placed on the waitlist and became homeless prior to receiving a voucher.
In addition, Durkan launched a new website, seattle.gov/affordable, which is a centralized page where Seattle residents can access more than 100 free and discounted resources and benefits that the City provides to all eligible Seattle residents, ranging from free internet hotspots and tax preparation advice to the Utility Discount Program, which saves residential households money on their bills.
“One of our most important jobs is to make navigating your government a bit easier. Tens of thousands of families are currently eligible for money back in their pockets through the Child Care Assistance Program, Seattle Preschool Program, Utility Discount Program and dozens of other programs and initiatives,” concluded Durkan.