Ending Homelessness?

Last week I attended the annual breakfast for the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. We’re 3 or 4 yours into a ten-year plan to take this on. I’m concerned that the financial crisis we’re in will delay accomplishment of some of the goals, but these folks are serious, practical people who are working a complex, integrated plan to address the issue.

The January 30, 2009 count put our total at 8,961 individuals in shelters or living on the street in King County. There are hundreds or thousands more that didn’t get counted for one reason or another. Over half are families with children.

Their plan has a bunch of moving parts and it’s well thought out and documented. You can read about it at www.cehkc.org. Their legislative agenda this year has some unrealistic financial goals given the state of Washington’s budget, but it’s important to keep this in front of us  – we need to make sure we continue to invest in housing for the very poor segment of this population that needs transitional help. My personal belief is that we will need to do some work to rationalize land-use planning with local zoning to provide a higher supply of building lots close in, that are affordable, and that are within walking distance of public transit before we’ll be able to make serious inroads into housing affordability for the working poor, but that shouldn’t block us from making sure we’re starting at the most needy with public investment.

One item on their legislative agenda will come before the Finance committee – ensuring that property tax assessments are commensurate with resale restrictions on affordable homes. If someone buys a home through Habitat for Humanity and it has a clause that restricts the resale value built into the deed that restriction should be reflected in the assessment. If not, the carrying costs of the property will be out of scale with reality. There are other cases where this comes up and it’ll be something we look at carefully. Property tax assessments are a complex beast and I try to be careful about how we change the system, but this looks doable.

About the Author

Ross
I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.