Seattle property sale going to help ease homeless crisis

SEATTLE -- It may not look like much, but it's got it where it counts. A small corner lot along Denny and Minor Avenue near South Lake Union could bring a massive change to the homeless problem in Seattle.

“It's a crisis that demands urgent action,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday.

She explained the proceeds from the $10.7 million sale of the city-owned communications building and land will be transformed into about 1,000 tiny homes, modular housing and backyard cottages, with a goal of quickly move people off the streets and into temporary shelter.

Her proposal calls for using $5.5 million on the Bridge Housing program, and another $2 million on temporary rent subsidies. The two-year pilot program will provide financial assistance for around 150 single adults and families who are on the waiting list for Seattle Housing Authority Housing Choice vouchers and in danger of becoming homeless in their current homes.

Air Force veteran Gerald Brooks has firsthand experience with temporary housing.

“Being in Licton Springs has provided me with security, stability and a roof over my head that I didn't have in four years,” Brooks said of transitional housing.

Durkan sees this as only a small part of the fix. It's a one-time influx of money.

“We need more long-term affordable housing and we needed it two years ago,” she said.

Yet the wait continues. We pressed the mayor about what the tiny homes will do. They are meant to be a transition and an upgrade from sleeping on the ground.

Durkan admits there is no single solution, but incremental changes help.

The city can't hide from the failures of the last decade.

“Our transportation systems weren't ready. Our social service systems weren't ready. Our housing infrastructure wasn't ready,” she said.

Durkan said the property sale should close next summer. In the meantime, she said her team will carve out a "cost-effective" new strategy for spending the money and a plan for locating the new shelter resources. Remaining funds will go toward design costs for a new fire station in South Lake Union and other projects.