Creating Permanent Supportive Housing

Summary

Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) announced he will introduce land use legislation exempting Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) from several development mandates, such as design review and onsite bike storage, allowing Seattle to quickly and affordably create more housing options for our homeless neighbors.

Permanent Supportive Housing combines non-time-limited housing placements with wrap-around services for people experiencing homelessness. These services include counseling, mental health support, and drug and alcohol treatment.

Background

The Problem

According to the Third Door Coalition, an alliance of service providers and small business owners, estimates 6,500 new units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) will be needed over the next five years to meet the scale of our homelessness crisis. However, it's expensive, time-consuming to difficult to build PSH, especially quickly and at scale. Each unit of PSH costs $331,953.

The Solution

Permanent Supportive Housing is a proven solution that breaks the cycle of homelessness. About 90-95% of residents placed in PSH are still housed a year later. And people experiencing homelessness are largely willing to use this type of housing. 98% of chronically homeless people in King County would accept a Permanent sSupportive Housing placement if offered.

Legislation

It's estimated that Councilmember Lewis' legislation would reduce the per-unit cost of PSH from $331,953 to $284,200, a savings of $47,753. Moreover, by removing mandated project requirements that take up on-site space, such as bike storage rooms, Lewis’ legislation could add at least one additional unit of housing per-building.

Proposed Land Use Code revisions would (1) add a definition of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) to the Land Use Code, (2) establish new regulations and procedures for developing PSH, and (3) modify existing regulations to remove Land Use Code barriers to PSH. The proposal is intended to facilitate siting, speed permitting and development, and potentially reduce the cost per unit of PSH. Specific elements of this proposal include:

  • Defining PSH as a multifamily residential use (1) with at least 90% of units affordable to households with incomes that do not exceed 50% of Area Median Income, (2) that receives public funding, and (3) that has a contractual term of affordability of at least 40 years;
  • Establishing that on-site supportive services, which can also be available to other clients, are an accessory use to PSH;
  • Exempting floor area used for on-site supportive services from calculations for Floor Area Ratio limits;
  • Exempting PSH from Design Review;
  • Exempting PSH from long and short-term bicycle parking requirements;
  • Authorizing the Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to waive or modify, as an administrative decision, specified development standards, if waivers would not effect the overall height, bulk, and scale of a PSH development and result in more units of PSH;
  • Requiring PSH applicants to submit a community relations plan;
  • Allowing PSH as a permitted use in Commercial 2 zones; and
  • Allowing PSH as a street-level use, in zones where those uses are required.

SEPA Information

On December 10, 2020 the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) re-issued a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) threshold Determination of Non-significance (DNS) for proposed amendments to the Seattle Land Use Code described above. A DNS means that SDCI has determined that the proposed amendments will not have a probable significant adverse environmental impact and no Environmental Impact Statement is required.

Comments regarding this DNS or potential environmental impacts may be submitted to SDCI through December 24, 2020. Comments may be sent to:

City of Seattle, SDCI
Attn: Gordon Clowers
P.O. Box 94788
Seattle, WA 98124-7088
gordon.clowers@seattle.gov

Appeals of the decision to issue a DNS must be submitted to the Office of the Hearing Examiner by 5:00 p.m. December 31, 2020. Appeals should be addressed to the Hearing Examiner and must be accompanied by an $85.00 filing fee in a check payable to the City of Seattle. The appeal must be sent to:

City of Seattle
Hearing Examiner
PO Box 94729
Seattle WA 98124-4729

Councilmember Perspectives

Councilmember Lewis

“Permanent supportive housing is desperately needed, even more so with the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on our shelter system. Current land use mandates create longer-than-needed processes and make permanent supportive housing projects more expensive. This approach cuts through the ‘red tape,’ making what has historically been a tedious process more efficient and less costly.”

“Solving any crisis requires flexibility. The need is evident and based on the scale of the problem, we have an obligation to make modest adjustments that can lead to quick production of more supportive housing.”

Scaling PSH will end homelessness

Councilmember Lewis' legislation will reduce the costs of PSH

Resources