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Regional Homelessness Agency Clears First Crucial Vote, Headed for Full Council Next Week

Summary

Efforts to create a joint regional homelessness authority moved ahead Thursday when a proposal cleared the Regional Policy Committee.

Story

An updated proposal to create a joint regional homelessness agency cleared a critical hurdle Thursday with unanimous approval at King County’s Regional Policy Committee. It will now head the full King County Council next week.

The latest version of the proposal – brought forward by Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles and co-sponsored by councilmembers Rod Dembowski and Pete von Reichbauer – would not, as previously proposed, create a public development authority. Instead, it would establish the King County Regional Homelessness Authority as an administrative agency through an interlocal agreement between Seattle and King County. The new arrangement would give it similar flexibility with added accountability to elected officials.

Funding for the new agency will come from Seattle and King County, with the city kicking in $75 million and the county contributing almost $57 million for the first budget – the portions of the city and county budgets already allocated to homelessness response.

The legislation passed out of the Regional Policy Committee bears several key differences with that originally proposed by Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. The duties and powers of the governing and management bodies and how they’ll be made up are chief among them, primarily altered to give the agency more direct accountability to elected leaders and give other cities more representation.

Many of the key details are listed below. Quotes from councilmembers are below that.

Key facts about King County Regional Homelessness Authority:

  • The proposal approved by the Regional Policy Committee would establish a governmental administrative agency through an interlocal agreement between King County and Seattle.  Additional parties may join in the future as subscribing agencies.
  • The new agency would not be a public development authority, but rather a partnership between Seattle and King County. As such, it maintains flexibility while keeping in place the accountability structure of elected officials to the voters.
  • The Implementation Board would have up to six months to develop an initial work plan that includes an organizational structure and a plan for implementation of contracted homeless services. The board would have 18 months to develop a five-year plan.
  • Three bodies would oversee various functions of the Authority. The Governing Committee would include representatives from King County (Executive and two councilmembers), Seattle (Mayor and two councilmembers), the Sound Cities Association (three) and three representing lived experience (12 members total). Its scope would include approval and amendment of all plans and budgets governing the authority , confirmation of members of the Implementation Board, approval of the authority’s organizational structure, and hiring and firing of the CEO (nine affirmative votes required to fire); The 13 -member Implementation Board would be responsible for proposing the Authority’s plans and budgets and overseeing operations. The board could not include any elected officials or current contract holders. The Advisory Committee would perform the functions of the mandatory Federal Continuum of Care board.
  • A chief executive officer would report to the Implementation Board and regularly provide information to the Governing Committee including quarterly reports. They would also provide annual presentations to the King County and Seattle City councils.
  • The interlocal agreement would be established for five years and auto-renew in the sixth year unless modified beforehand.
  • The agency would have a budget of nearly $132 million initially, with $75 million from Seattle and $56,755,000 from King County.
  • The proposal still needs approval from the full King County Council and the Seattle City Council before it can take effect. If it is amended by either body, it will have to go back to the Regional Policy Committee for approval.

Quotes:

Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles:

“This has been an incredibly complex process that’s taken place involving elected leaders and regional stakeholders with differing points of view on how this new authority should operate,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, lead sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the King County Council’s Health, Housing and Human Services Committee. “We have a citizenry that is hungry for change. They see fragmentation everywhere and issues regarding homelessness that are only worsening. I believe we have crafted a proposal that has the capacity to build a solid alliance across governments and agencies informed by experts and significantly by those with lived experiences of homelessness to finally begin to reverse the effects of this bleak chapter in our region’s history.”

 

Councilmember Claudia Balducci:

“I know from personal experience coming into the courthouse each day and from internal and independent reviews and audits that our homelessness response system is failing to meet the need in our County. We must strengthen accountability, eliminate gaps and redundancies in services, and build a system that helps people experiencing homelessness access services, and move off the streets and into stable housing. The proposed new approach will work towards meeting these goals by aligning priorities, bringing experts and people with lived experience into the decision-making process, and doing this work together with all of our County partner jurisdictions.”

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