Shoreline’s homelessness plan: “Maintain Current Level of Service” while city comes up with a plan

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Back row from left: Councilmembers John Ramsdell, Betsy Robertson, Annette Ademasu, Eben Pobee, Keith Scully Front row from left: Mayor Chris Roberts, Deputy Mayor Laura Mork

At the Monday, April 8 meeting, the Shoreline city council approved a housing and human services plan that recommends continuing to “Maintain Current Level of Service”. 

City staff will study the problem, clarify metrics, and “explore or pilot innovative human service programs” potentially paid for with a property tax levy.

A chart from the 2022 Resident Satisfaction Survey shows that residents want the city to do more about homelessness
As previously reported, in survey results, Shoreline residents want the city to prioritize homelessness and earlier drafts of the plan faced criticism.

The final draft approved by the council on Monday still faced questions from Council members.

The fifty-four page study found that residents want the city to do something about homelessness and the housing affordability crisis.

The plan recommends the city “Maintain Current Level of Service” while continuing to study the problem and said “affordable housing and homelessness solutions require more resources”.

Mayor Chris Roberts questioned why the plan lacked details on specific housing types needed. “But what we don’t have right now… what I’m hearing… we don’t know how many three bedroom units… we don’t know how many ADA accessible units… the city needs,” he said.

A picture of “three circles and a triangle” approved by the city council will direct staff on housing and human services priorities
Deputy Mayor Laura Mork questioned what metrics the city would use to measure outcomes. In reference to a graphic showing three circles and a triangle, she asked, “would the funding on the next slide allow you to make that more concrete?”

City staff told the council they will identify target outcome metrics and continue to study what can be done.

Council member John Ramsdell questioned why the city hasn’t done more. “there are cities in Washington State that have less than a quarter of our population that have housing authorities,” he said.

One recommendation in the plan was for Shoreline to “explore or pilot innovative human service programs” potentially paid for with an affordable housing tax levy.

In the 2020 resident satisfaction survey and again in 2022, residents told the city that addressing homelessness should be its top priority. And residents rated the city’s response to homelessness as the service they were most dissatisfied with. In the 2022 survey, 55% of residents said homelessness should receive the most emphasis by the city while 50.3% of residents said they don’t want property taxes to increase.

Voters in some cities in Washington State have approved property tax levies to fund affordable housing. Since 1986, Seattle has had a housing levy and in 2023 the levy was renewed by voters. Vancouver voters approved an affordable housing property tax levy in 2016 and voters renewed the levy again in 2023. First approved by voters in 2012 and expanded in 2018, Bellingham has an affordable housing levy.

Some affordable housing levies have not been approved. A housing levy campaign in 2017 failed in Jefferson County. Tacoma has attempted to institute a property-tax levy for affordable housing in 2001 and 2005 but has failed in both cases.


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