Poulsbo approves funds for emergency rental assistance

‘They’re an eyelash away from homelessness if we don’t help.’

The use of up to $7,000 of city funds for emergency rental assistance was approved at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to assist people whose income is at or below 60% of the area median income.

According to council documents, assistance will be restricted to people who, because of age or disability, live on a fixed income and are substantially impacted by recent rent increases. Fishline Comprehensive Services will accept applications for the funding, assess eligibility and distribute the funds. Funds will not be available to individuals who qualify for COVID rental assistance.

“We were approached by some tenants; we did our homework, and we agreed we needed to do something else or else they were going to be out on the street,” Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said. “This will give them some time to figure out another alternative.”

Documents state that housing affordability and housing displacement are growing problems in Poulsbo. The city participates in a sales tax revenue sharing program with the State (SHB 1406) that creates a revenue stream of approximately $30,000 each year for affordable housing. 1406 funds may be used for expenses relating to the construction and operation of affordable housing units. In cities with populations of 100,000 or less, like Poulsbo, funds may also be used for rental assistance.

“There are a number of rental units impacted by this,” Councilmember Connie Lord said. “The whole point of this is to help capture and get some assistance for people who are going to have their rent increase imminently…which puts them in great jeopardy of not being able to increase their own funding to be able to pay for the increase. They’re an eyelash away from homelessness if we don’t help.

“It’s not meant to be an ongoing subsidy for people; it’s a one-time help for these people,” Lord went on to say. “It’s kind of on an emergency basis. We have funds available that will allow these people to have time, maybe up to six months, to find another place to live.”

Council raises

Also during the meeting, a motion was approved to increase councilmember salaries from $750 to $1,000 per month. The increase would be effective Jan. 1, 2022, for positions 5-7 and Jan. 1, 2024, for positions 1-4. Documents state that in order to maintain parity with like jurisdictions and to be fairly compensated for the amount of time necessary to fulfill the duties of the position, the increase is warranted. The last increase was in 2016.

“Nobody can vote themselves a raise while still in office,” Councilmember Jeff McGinty said. “This only affects the people who get re-elected into the new term next year. This is not like we’re giving ourselves a raise personally.”

“I don’t think anyone really knows, unless you are a councilmember, just how much time you do put into it,” Erickson said. “When you’re on the City Council you’re all in, and it takes a lot of energy and effort.”

The council also set a public hearing on the 2021-22 Mid-Biennial Budget Amendment Ordinance for Nov. 17 at 7:15 p.m.

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