The Pierce County Council wrapped up its 2022-23 budget last week and affordable housing development and efforts to serve our homeless community members were well funded.
As part of it’s $200 million investment in housing and homelessness services the County allocated $65 million of its American Rescue Plan Act funding to specific services and projects, the largest of which is $22.3 million for a concept based on a homelessness housing and service model out of Austin, TX called Community First! Village (CFV).
Asked for his reaction to the budget appropriation, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier noted that he’s visited the original CFV in Austin, “I’ve had the opportunity to see the Community First! Village in-person and came away impressed and inspired. It was encouraging to see the entire community embrace and support the residents of the Village. This is just what Pierce County needs, and I’m pleased the Council agrees.”
First proposed in Executive Dammeier’s budget, the concept for the Community First! Village model in Pierce County will be an attempt to centralize personal shelter options and services for those experiencing homelessness. The County is working to identify an appropriate site and has a goal of full operation by July 1, 2024.
In addition to this large investment, the Council also committed $5.5 million for a 120 bed expansion at the Tacoma Rescue Mission, $5 million for a motel purchase, $750,000 for a tiny home development and operating expenses, $1 million for shelter services, and $9 million for the implementation of the recommendations provided by the Pierce County Affordable Housing Workgroup and the Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness.
These investments, totaling more than $21 million, are an historic response to serve and shelter our homeless community members said Councilmember Ryan Mello, noting that capital allocations will be combined with service delivery funding, “These investments include funding for shelter improvements and capacity expansion along with the accompanying services needed to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty while simultaneously addressing root causes with massive behavioral health investments. Our work now is to implement these investments with the urgency and intensity that these persistent challenges demand.”
As for building more affordable housing, the Council committed more than $20 million to support housing development. These funds will start with $7.5 million to fund projects on the 2021 affordable housing funding waitlist, which includes $450,000 for a Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity development in Lakewood. The Council also committed $12.3 million more to fund affordable housing projects in future County award allocations. These funds will ensure that critically needed affordable housing projects don’t experience multi-year waits for funding. We’ve asked municipalities to support affordable housing to attract outside capital investment, and with this most recent allocation, it looks like the three largest municipalities – Pierce County, City of Tacoma, and City of Lakewood—have been listening.
Photo Courtesy Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the organization behind Austin’s Community First! Village.