HUD Deputy Secretary Joins Congresswoman, Local Officials to Celebrate Seattle-area Success of Federal House America Initiative
Federal, City and County Partnership to House America is solving homelessness with housing
SEATTLE – Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Adrianne Todman and U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal joined Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones and other officials and housing advocates to celebrate the success of Seattle-area agencies in implementing HUD’s House America initiative. The event was hosted by the Chief Seattle Club with Executive Director Derrick Belgrade at ?ál?al, a supportive housing project that opened in January.
As part of the American Rescue Plan legislation passed by Congress in March 2021, the House America initiative is part of the Biden Administration’s direct response to the crisis of homelessness, which was rising even before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is a national partnership in which HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness called on local, tribal and state leaders across the country to partner in distributing 70,000 emergency housing vouchers and $5 billion in HOME grants to help more Americans struggling with homelessness to get re-housed, and build additional housing for people experiencing homelessness.
As of Dec. 5, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority has distributed more than 1,200 emergency housing vouchers to households experiencing homelessness—one of the best lease-rates in the nation, and the Seattle Office of Housing worked with numerous partners to build nearly 800 units of affordable housing in the city.
Working together, the House America initiative leverages the Housing First approach that the City of Seattle and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority are using. Housing First is an evidence-based strategy recognizing that housing, and the safety and stability it provides, is a necessary first step to helping people rebuild their lives. Housing first is not housing only, but housing first starts with a solid foundation—a safe place to live—and builds on it with healthcare, treatment, social services, and education or work supports.
To date, we have achieved the following progress goals:
- Near full utilization of federally-funded Emergency Housing Vouchers, with 1,234 households already leased and moved in to safe and stable homes. This meets 94% of our goal of 1,314 households housed, with a leasing rate that is one of the best in the nation.
- Creation of 796 new units of affordable housing in the City of Seattle, exceeding our goal of 772 new units. These new units represent 12 new affordable housing buildings that opened in 2022 and are located in 10 different neighborhoods across Seattle.
Along with marking the incredible success of the House America initiative in the Seattle-area, local leaders also acknowledged that much more needs to be done to address the homelessness crisis, and pledged to keep the momentum of investments in housing, shelter, and homelessness response going into 2023. The Seattle City Council adopted the 2023 budget on Tuesday, Nov. 29, which includes an unprecedented quarter of a billion dollars allocated to the Office of Housing, as well as over $150 million budgeted for homelessness response throughout the city, which includes more than $96 million allocated to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority as it enters its second full year of operations.
Additionally, Mayor Harrell worked with Councilmembers Strauss and Mosqueda to introduce city legislation that would continue a COVID-relief exemption of affordable rental housing projects from design review by the Seattle Office of Housing. By extending the exemption while simultaneously exploring options to make the exemption permanent, the goal of the legislation is to reduce administrative bottlenecks and bring affordable housing units to market faster.
The event was hosted at the ʔálʔal building, with guests welcomed by Chief Seattle Club Drummers and Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Derrick Belgrade. ʔálʔal is Chief Seattle Club’s first residential development. The 80-unit building was completed in January 2022 and received funding from the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing, as well as HOME grants from HUD. ʔálʔal serves individuals exiting homelessness and low-income individuals with 24/7 staffing, case managers, and social & cultural services programs for its residents. Through Seattle’s Community Preference Policy, the building has achieved more than 90% Native residential demographics for the building.
“The American Rescue Plan was one of the most ambitious, progressive, and responsive packages that we have passed in Congress, and it continues to pay dividends even now. The House America initiative and the entire housing assistance package in the American Rescue Plan helped us tackle a housing crisis that had been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “The results of this initiative in Seattle prove that we can get thousands of families housed and stable by working swiftly, decisively, and cooperatively across all levels of government. I was honored to help pass this bold package, and look forward to continuing our work to address the housing crisis in our district.”
“HUD is pleased to work with the City of Seattle, under Mayor Harrell’s leadership, to address the housing supply and homelessness challenges the city faces,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman. “We are proud of the City’s sustained efforts leveraging federal resources and collaborating with partners, which have culminated in Seattle exceeding their House America goals.”
“President Biden and HUD’s House America initiative shows a true commitment to combating the homelessness crisis by elevating the best solution we have – housing,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Through partnership and urgency, we have created hundreds of units for people to recover and restore their lives. We will not be complacent in our efforts to address unsheltered homelessness – we remain dedicated to setting ambitious housing goals and driving forward the historic investments in our budget necessary to meet and exceed them.”
“When we work together to focus and coordinate resources, we can, in fact, house people,” said Marc Dones, CEO of the Regional Homelessness Authority. “Imagine if we lived in a place where no matter what you look like or where you come from, you could count on having a roof over your head. That’s what we’re working towards, today and every day.”
“Native Americans and Alaska Natives make up just one-percent of the population, but are the highest percentage of our city’s chronically homeless. Our work isn’t done until every one of our relatives has a place to call home,” said Derrick Belgrade, Executive Director of Chief Seattle Club. “HUD’s House America program met the urgency of homelessness in the COVID pandemic, which was so important. But it’s critical that all levels of government act with this urgency always. We need more creative partnerships to ensure that developments like ?al?al are built to meet the growing and immediate need for housing.”