Dear friends and neighbors,

No problem facing our state is more immediate or visible than the crises of affordable housing and homelessness. Thanks to additional federal funds, this year the Legislature made one of the largest investments in state history to increase affordable housing, bring unsheltered people into housing, and address their behavioral health needs.

Access to housing

It’s been exciting to watch the progress on the Madison & Boylston Housing projects (pictured above) that will provide more than 350 affordable housing units when completed this year. Here are a few of the highlights of the investments made in 2022.

Lawmakers prioritized funding for homelessness in this year’s supplemental budgets – adding hundreds of millions of dollars to increase access to housing with short-term and long-term investments.

  • $300 million for Rapid Housing Acquisition to help local governments purchase properties and get unsheltered people into housing as quickly as possible.
  • $145 million for utility and rental assistance to assist individuals in need.
  • $115 million for the state’s Housing Trust Fund, which provides capital financing in the form of loans and grants to affordable housing projects.
  • $55 million to increase salaries for homeless service workers.
  • $45 million to help transition people camping on public roads and highways to emergency and permanent housing.
  • $14.9 million for facilities for homeless youth.
  • $3 million to assist tenant and landlord relations, including funding for dispute resolution services.
  • $6 million to expand access to no-barrier, low-barrier, and transitional housing using a housing-first approach.
  • $4 million for an emergency adolescent housing pilot, which will provide a supportive housing option for youth aged 16 and older.

The Legislature also passed several measures to increase affordable housing and help homeless individuals, especially youth, gain access to housing assistance:

  • Apple Health and Homes: My seatmate Rep. Chopp led efforts to pass the groundbreaking House Bill 1866, which will address chronic homelessness as a medical condition so more people can find stable housing and access medically necessary services through the Apple Health and Homes program.
  • Independent youth housing: Senate Bill 5566 extends the age of eligibility for the independent youth housing program to provide additional housing assistance for foster youth and help cut off the pipeline into homelessness. I was the prime sponsor of the bill that originally created this program back in 2007 and am thrilled to see the program continuing to help youth aging out of foster care.
  • Preventing youth homelessness: House Bill 1905 creates a statewide rapid response team to ensure youth in foster care, juvenile rehabilitation, and in-patient behavioral health treatment are not released into homelessness.
  • Incentivizing affordable housing: House Bill 1643 will help non-profit developers and public housing authorities preserve existing housing and acquire land for new development by exempting those transfers from the real estate excise tax.
  • Improving the permitting process: Senate Bill 5818 will streamline the state’s growth management and environmental policy acts to allow faster construction.

Behavioral health

Easing the hurt and anguish caused by mental and behavioral health issues is one of my top priorities – and we know the pandemic has only increased the need for treatment. We’ve made steady progress trying to transform our state’s system of care, and this session lawmakers added nearly $100 million for behavioral health, including $72 million for crisis triage and stabilization facilities. Another $100 million will be used to address workforce shortages. Finally, an additional $10 million will help continue the work on a new UW Behavioral Health Teaching Facility.

Thanks for taking the time to read this newsletter. If you missed my previous updates on education, transportation, climate action, or public safety, they are available on my website.