Seattle City Council approves regional homeless authority proposal

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The Seattle City Council chambers. (Seattle City Council, Flickr)

A new regional homeless authority is one step closer to becoming a reality, after getting approved by King County Council and Seattle City Council committee.

Can a regional agency actually help Seattle’s homeless problem?

The votes happened Wednesday and Thursday respectively, after dozens of meetings, differing opinions, and a last minute compromise. The proposed regional homeless authority would merge the county and Seattle’s emergency homeless response systems into one agency.

The full Seattle City Council is expected to vote on the proposal on Monday.

“With today’s action, we are one step closer to setting up an authority that truly has the capacity to bring transformational change to the way we serve and respond to those in our community experiencing homelessness,” King County Councilmember Jean Kohl-Welles said in a news release.

In the latest version of the plan to establish the regional authority, it would be largely governed by a committee composed of representatives from Seattle, King County, the Sound Cities Association, and people who have experienced homelessness themselves. Seattle also stands to kick in $73 million of the total $130 million budget for the proposal, with King County funding the remaining $57 million.

Seattle, County homeless response paralyzed by bureaucracy

While Seattle City Council committee did agree to the terms set by King County Council, that came with a caveat.

“The ordinance is non-binding on the King County Council, but it contains a latent ‘nuclear option’ threat that the city might withhold its $73 million of funding if the issues aren’t addressed,” said SCC Insight’s Kevin Schofield.

That option was included to avoid having to send the legislation back to King County Council for a rework that would have dragged the process out even longer.

KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott contributed to this report

A previous version of this report left out “committee.” The regional homeless authority was voted out of a Seattle City Council committee on Thursday. It goes to full council vote on Monday.

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