City clears way for supportive housing

Faith Richie, executive director of Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation, hopes to have the first local homeless in supportive housing by 2010.

Faith Richie

Change in city zoning to allow permanent homeless dwellings

Faith Richie, executive director of Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation, hopes to have the first local homeless in supportive housing by 2010.

Auburn City Council members last week removed the last barrier by passing an amendment to the city’s zoning rules to make supportive housing possible.

A federal Housing and Urban Development program called Supportive Housing provides permanent housing for the homeless and potentially homeless within 1,500 feet of helpful services, such as food banks, mental health facilities and facilities that offer vocational training.

Until now the wrinkle has been that the apartments, serving one person, would be smaller than conventional multi-family housing and there would be more units in a given area than the zoning code allows. The idea is to make the units more affordable.

“I am really pleased to receive the support of the Council,” said Richie.

The amendment does the following:

• Includes supportive housing as a conditional use only in the R-4 multi-family residential zones

• Allows supportive housing at twice the density – units per acre – allowed for conventional housing, and has the density determined as part of the conditional use process

• Requires a written management plan be submitted and approved by the City Council as part of the conditional use process

• Provides a definition of supportive housing.

• Caps the maximum number of units at 50.

“We’re fine with the cap,” Richie said. “You don’t want so many units it doesn’t fit in with the neighborhood.”

Many of the agencies providing the services lie along the I Street Northeast and Auburn Way North corridor, such as Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation at 2704 I St. N.E., the Auburn Food Bank at 930 18th Place N.E., Lakeside-Milam Recovery Center at 721 45th St. N.E., Seattle Mental Health at 4238 Auburn Way N., the South King County Alano Club at 1317 Harvey Road, and Trillium Employment Services at 2 Auburn Way N.

Half of the units will be reserved for homeless veterans. Nationally, about one-third of the homeless are veterans. That number is likely to be higher here because of the higher number of veterans in the state and the city’s close proximity to military bases in South King County.

This year’s homeless count Jan. 24 showed a 15 percent increase in homelessness over 2007.

Financing will be provided via State Housing Trust Fund grants and the Veterans and Human Services levy. Valley Cities will ask the city for a small matching contribution. No federal money will involved.

Richie said she hopes to begin detailed plan review with the city and an architect, put the project out to bid and break ground in the winter.

“Now I will be able to send a letter to our state funding agency that says our local project is consistent with local zoning,” Richie said. “That is the last hurdle before they award the funding.”

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