Council approves $4.9 million from government to aid in housing

The Seattle City Council today passed a bill unanimously to accept $4.9 million from the federal government to go toward homelessness prevention and rent stabilization for those who need help due to job loss or other impacts from the slumping economy.

Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low-Income Housing Institute in Seattle, said at the council' s May 6 Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting that she would like to see a portion of the three-year, one-time funds go toward helping existing tenants who face job losses and homelessness.

"We would want to make sure the families and individuals don't lose their housing and become homeless," she said.

Lee said there are 7,000 people on a waiting list for her program's services, so the need is great.

The funds are coming from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for funds from the Homelessness Prevention Fund allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ands would be allocated to help with rent stabilization, legal fees and more.

Council member Bruce Harrell and Housing Committee Chair Richard McIver warned that the city should have a good exit strategy once the funds are gone in three years.

"I don't think we can just hope Obama's money making machine can keep printing out money," Harrell said at the May 6 meeting. "I don't want to set us up for failure."

Adrienne Quinn, director of the city's Office of Housing, said the funds are for temporary housing help only, and have an 18 month time-line to help residents get stabilized through partnering with agencies.

"We need to be very careful what organizations we partner with," Quinn said, noting that organizations need to have other funding resources available.

"At least in theory, it's not supposed to be for chronically homeless people," she said.

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