WA Spent $5B Over Past Decade on Homelessness & Housing Programs

WA Spent $5B Over Past Decade on Homelessness & Housing Programs

Washington has constantly increased the budget structure for housing and homelessness programs, going from $200 million to $400 million every two years between 2013 and 2021.

According to state data, more than $4 billion of the $5 billion spent since 2013 was used in the last two budgets, which was mainly reported as federal COVID-19 aid.

However, the simultaneous increase in budget structure indicates that lawmakers have been prioritizing improving homeless services, purchasing temporary shelters, and building more affordable housing.

Washington state has spent about $3.4 billion on programs to prevent homelessness and another $1.9 billion on building housing, for a total of $5.3 billion.

Between 2013 and 2021, the state spent an average of about $262 million on housing and homelessness in each two-year budget. However, a recent spike was marked around $4.2 billion as of COVID-19 aid.

Funds for housing and homelessness programs are retrieved from document recording fees, which are paid by the people certain legal documents at the county auditor’s office.

In the current budget cycle, over $562 million from these fees is dedicated to investing in housing programs, a significant increase from the previous cycle’s $251 million.

The program is meant to help low-income people by providing essential items like hygiene products, transit cards, or rent assistance if they can’t work due to physical or mental health issues. It covers up:

  • County homeless housing plans
  • Rent assistance
  • Incentives for landlords who accept rent assistance
  • Building and maintaining permanent supportive housing

Most of the money for housing construction comes from the Housing Trust Fund, which gives grants to affordable housing providers.

WA Spent $5B Over Past Decade on Homelessness Housing Programs
WA Spent $5B Over Past Decade on Homelessness & Housing Programs

In 2013, $56 million was put into the fund, whereas $500 million was recorded in the last two years of the fund.

Recently, the state has also allocated money for emergency housing and temporary shelters, loans for fixing up rural housing, and preservation of mobile homes.

In 2011, Washington built around 24,100 homes, which increased to 46,400 homes between 2020 and 2023.

Despite the increase in overall home construction, Tedd Kelleher from the Department of Commerce said that investments in affordable housing haven’t kept up with Washington’s growing population.

According to the Department of Commerce, the state needs to build about 27,011 affordable units each year.

Michele Thomas from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance stated that the state should focus more on building affordable housing rather than just increasing the total number of new homes.

She said, “We don’t need more luxury apartments built,” she said. “What we need is affordable housing.”

Michele Thomas mentioned that the money spent on homelessness support and services has indeed helped people who are already homeless.

However, the state needs to do more to tackle the underlying issues that lead to homelessness, such as high rent prices and a shortage of affordable housing.

Thomas explained that even though state programs help some people avoid becoming homeless, many others continue to become homeless, which creates a “constant churn.”

Thomas said, “Every one of those dollars has changed somebody’s life,” “But there’s nothing to stop more people from experiencing homelessness.”

About the author

William Smith

William Smith is a dynamic editor at World-Wire, covering a wide range of topics including health, technology, travel, and events. Known for his ability to simplify complex subjects, he engages readers with his insightful FAQs and articles. His diverse expertise has earned him accolades, including the "Excellence in Diverse Journalism" award in 2022.

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