OLYMPIA — Upon the announcement today by the Washington Department of Commerce of $39 million in grants to five projects that will acquire 307 units of urgently needed housing to address homelessness, Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), vice chair for the Capital Budget on the Senate Ways & Means Committee and lead sponsor of the budget’s new Rapid Housing Fund, commented:

“The goal of this fund was for the state to partner with local governments, non-profits and the private sector more aggressively to make more units available rapidly – not in three or four years but within months. I am pleased that this initial round appears to be moving toward that goal. I think there are likely to be more units rapidly developed in Seattle and King County in upcoming rounds of funding.

“Our state goal needs to be to join with local communities to get people living in parks, tents, under bridges and in other unsheltered spaces in our cities, under a roof with the supports they need.

“The kinds of housing that these grants bring online—temporary housing where people have their own rooms, permanent supportive housing where people can receive the behavioral health treatment they need—are critical. I am under no illusions that this is easy or that every placement is 100% successful for these individuals. But the crisis is right before our eyes in this city and has been for years, and we have no choice but to keep working to improve the situation.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the local governments to use the tools the state has provided, be it direct grants, housing vouchers funds, permanent supportive dollars, and bonding and sales tax authority, to create the housing ecosystem to meet the needs of this population and to improve the quality of life for all the residents of our city.

“The long-term solution to homelessness is to build more supportive housing across our state. But given how much time is needed for construction, we have to take immediate steps to rectify the unacceptable situations that many of our neighbors find themselves in. That is why I am calling for an additional investment of up to $400 million in rapid housing out of remaining federal relief funds when the Legislature next meets.”

Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, which received grants for three projects in King County, added:

“The downturn in the real estate market due to the pandemic made it possible for three newly constructed apartment buildings to be purchased as permanent supportive housing for vulnerable homeless people. Thanks to the State’s Rapid Capital Housing Acquisition program, the Low Income Housing Institute will soon move in 180 people currently living on the streets, shelters and tiny houses into studio apartments. We appreciate the leadership from Governor Inslee and the Legislature in innovating this new program to address homelessness.”

These grants represent phase I of the 2021 Rapid Capital Housing Acquisition (RCHA) program. Phase II is scheduled to open on September 30, 2021. Information can be found at https://www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/housing/housing-trust-fund/.