Poulsbo task force makes affordable housing recommendations

The Affordable Housing Task Force, the which has been tapped to help the City of Poulsbo decide how to spend funds allocated for the development of affordable housing, presented to the city council a series of recommendations, in addition to pushing for the formation of a Health, Housing, and Human Services Committee.

The Affordable Housing Task Force was formed last September by the city council and is made up of four city council members: Stuart Grogan, the executive director of Housing Kitsap; representatives of local nonprofits and faith-based organizations; local housing providers; and Mayor Becky Erickson. The task force was put together to determine how the funds from Substitute House Bill 1406 (SHB1406) should be spent and how the city should tackle the monumental issue of local affordable housing.

SHB1406 was approved by the Legislature at the end of the 2019 legislative session and created a new sales tax revenue sharing program that allows cities and counties to access a portion of state sales tax revenue and invest that revenue into affordable housing. These funds can be used to acquire, rehabilitate or construct affordable housing, including building or rehabilitating units within an existing structure or building facilities, that provide supportive housing services.

Additionally, a different set of legislation that passed in July of 2015, House Bill 2263, allows local governments to create and collect a 0.1 percent tax for affordable housing and related services for the most vulnerable of the population, such as the mentally ill, elderly, veterans and homeless youth.

Representing the Affordable Housing Task Force, and head of the new Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, Kim Hendrickson, presented the task force’s recommendations to the Poulsbo City Council.

“I am in a unique role, being the staff person for the Affordable Housing Task Force because a lot of what I see and understand about the City of Poulsbo comes from my work as Program Manager for the Police Navigator Program. I know from working with Poulsbo police and Poulsbo Navigators that there is a lot of concern in Poulsbo about people at risk of losing their homes and people that are in crisis situations because of lack of housing,” Hendrickson said. “Something that I hear from police and navigators, as well as service providers, is that its a real frustration that there is no local transitional housing and there is no local shelter.”

One of the first recommendations — and the top priority of the Affordable Housing Task Force — was to support the creation of temporary shelters.

“There are no shelter beds available for homeless individuals and families in North Kitsap outside of severe weather shelters. The task force recommended, as its highest priority, that city funds be used to create or encourage the creation of places to stay for people needing shelter in Poulsbo for one to 30 days,” read documents from the Feb. 5 meeting.

According to the Housing Solutions Center, which operates a branch at Fishline, over 300 people came seeking housing solutions last year with 70 percent of those at risk of losing housing and 30 percent already homeless, with the vast majority of both groups being women who were the heads of their households.

The task force also suggested providing temporary rental assistance for individuals experiencing crisis or displacement. Data provided by Fishline suggests that many of the individuals who come to access their services are experiencing short term crises that lead to potential loss of housing. The crises can range from job loss to family circumstances to illness.

“I think its important for council to understand the need that we’re seeing anecdotally and the need that we’re seeing in terms of data and the kind of people in Poulsbo that are looking for assistance,” Hendrickson said.

The third recommendation from the Task Force was to preserve existing affordable housing, including workforce housing.

“Workforce Housing is a term typically used to describe housing for individuals who are deemed overqualified for affordable housing but cannot afford market-rate housing. It is often used to describe households that earn 80 percent or less of the area median income but in higher-cost markets, it can refer to households making 120 percent or less.”

Affordable Housing is a term typically used to describe low-income households, though the actual definition is that the housing costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s income.

Deeply Affordable Housing typically describes households earning below 30 percent of the area’s median income.

The task force also voiced its support for the creation of temporary affordable housing for low and very low-income individuals. The idea is to support the establishment of deeply affordable housing for transitional purposes lasting between one and six months.

The final recommendation made to the council was in support of the creation of long term affordable housing for chronically vulnerable individuals. The group recognized that there will always be people who need help for a multitude of reasons from disability to substance abuse and mental illness that make it nearly impossible for them to own, rent or remain in a home.

Councilwoman Connie Lord noted that the items brought forward by the Task Force had addressed affordable housing problems across the state.

“There were many points that were brought up that our Task Force addressed and I was really proud of that,” Lord said.

The council ultimately approved the resolution accepting the recommendations for further consideration and established the creation of the Housing Health and Human Services Committee.