One Community Plan - Focus Area 2

Happy woman holding key to home

Focus Area 2: Expand affordable housing options and homelessness prevention

Overview

What we heard

Olympians want a sustainable solution to homelessness, and broadly agree that our community must build more housing of all types for all incomes. There is also broad support for developing policies and actions that help currently housed people stay in their homes, and many said these efforts should balance the needs of both renters and landlords. Olympians support prevention programs that help people at risk of homelessness receive emergency assistance. Olympians also advocate for a focus on longer-term prevention, including education, training and economic development strategies that address all income levels.

Key challenges

The ultimate goal is to connect people to permanent housing solutions. When people are stably housed, they are better equipped to pursue challenges and opportunities in life. But the critical lack of affordable and supportive housing in our region makes it hard to connect people experiencing homelessness to housing. It also means more and more individuals and families living on the margins are at risk of falling into homelessness. Since a lack of adequate housing supply is the primary driver of rising housing costs, a concerted regional effort is needed to increase the overall size of the region’s housing stock.

Assuming an affordable unit is available, most people seeking housing assistance can be helped through Rapid Rehousing. This program provides people who are newly homeless or on the verge with quick resources, such as money to pay a security deposit or first month’s rent. However, other people have higher needs related to physical, mental health or developmental disabilities. They often need Permanent Supportive Housing with wrap around services and intensive case management in order to stay housed.

The need for permanent supportive housing in our region is high. Hundreds of people who are unsheltered or staying in shelters experience compounding physical and mental health factors. The lives of these individuals are threatened by the lack of appropriate options to help them exit the street. These individuals also have significant impacts on City and regional services as well as collateral impacts on businesses and neighborhoods Downtown and citywide.

The City’s role

In 2018, Olympia residents passed a Home Fund sales tax levy to build permanent supportive housing. Between 2020 and 2025, Olympia aims to build 300 units of supportive and affordable housing for those with extremely low incomes. The first project with 60 units will break ground on Martin Way in 2021. The goal is to over time shift resources from emergency responses to long-term supportive and affordable housing as these facilities are developed.

The City of Olympia plays an important role in the development of housing across the continuum. City policies and codes influence the location, density and cost of housing. Through its Community Development Block Grant, the City has long assisted with development of new affordable housing and rehabilitations. Coupled with the Home Fund, the City now has strong financial tools to do even more. 

While most housing has traditionally been built by the private sector, non-profits working in partnership with the City will play a larger role in building more units for low income households. Completion of a regional Housing Needs Assessment for Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey is the first step in creating housing action plans for each city. This work is underway in 2020 and will include a projection of housing needs by income level.

Strategies

The following strategies and potential implementation approaches were developed by the Community Work Group. These are meant as a guide for action based on what they heard and learned from the community.

Strategies Potential Implementation Approaches
2.1  Build a continuum of housing to meet diverse needs and income levels
  • Develop a community-wide affordable housing action plan.
  • Leveraging the City’s Home Fund, build 300 new units of supported and affordable housing within the next 5 years (2020-24).
  • Over the next five years, create more permanent supportive housing.
  • Reduce costs and other barriers to building more housing stock of all types.
  • Incorporate creative housing options (e.g. ADU, shared-housing, boarding, etc.).
  • Focus on rehabilitation of existing buildings as well as new construction.
  • Expand housing options that support sobriety (recovery housing).
  • Expand ADA-accessible housing stock.
2.2  Increase partnerships and diversify funding to support construction of new affordable housing
 
  • Engage peer cities and key agencies in housing funding and location strategies.
  • Seek state and federal assistance to increase supply of low-income housing.
  • Adjust policies and codes to facilitate affordable housing construction.
  • Develop private sector partnerships to leverage additional affordable housing opportunities.
  • Host or invite the private sector to innovate (i.e., Issue an affordable housing RFP to solicit creative ideas).
2.3  Implement policies that help people locate housing and remain housed 
  • Increase diversion funding to more quickly house those who are able to sustain their housing independently.
  • Consider rent subsidies, first-month/last-month bridge loans, etc.
  • Facilitate access to housing for at-risk and marginalized populations.
  • Develop emergency assistance resources for people at-risk of losing housing.
  • Increase funding for family reunification to relocate people with home and family.
  • Work with the Housing Authority to develop strategic housing solutions. 
2.4  Increase education, training and resources that help people avoid or recover from homelessness
  • Remove barriers to transportation and provide transportation where essential.
  • Increase financial literacy.
  • Expand access to personal counseling services.
  • Enhance career pathway education beginning in middle and high school years.
  • Promote the availability of increased access to college education and technical certification training programs that lead to higher-wage occupations.
  • Provide landlords and tenants rights information. 
2.5  Develop an economic development strategy that addresses all income levels
  • Expand mentorship programs for youth.
  • Provide broader awareness about the longer-term costs associated with leaving poverty unaddressed.
  • Develop and promote employment opportunities for youth.
  • Consider entrepreneurial programs like “Piece by Piece” operating in Los Angeles.
  • Support findings and strategies recommended by community partners focused on developing education and training pathways to career development and financial stability for students.

Actions

Learn more about our featured actions below or download the complete list of 2020 City-led actions.

2828 Martin Way

The City purchased land and directed $1.2 million from the Home Fund to help build 60 new permanent supportive housing units plus a new shelter facility at 2828 Martin Way. The project will break ground in 2020.

3900 Boulevard Road

Increasing housing supply and options is one important strategy toward ensuring all community members have access to housing. In 2020 the City has requested proposals to find a development partner to build housing suitable for working families on Boulevard Road.


Results map & Measurements


We do this/So that... What we measure
The City studies community housing needs and barriers
  • Rental housing cost survey
  • Income forecast by sector
  • Projection of housing needs by income level
  • Policy/code barriers
So that...   
We identify and implement strategies to increase access to housing
  • $$ Invested
  • Capital $$ leveraged (grants, partnerships)
So that...    
All community members can locate and remain in their home
  • # of permanent supportive units constructed
  • # of affordable units (80% AMI or below) constructed
  • # of residential units constructed
So that...    
Olympians can thrive and take advantage of opportunities to improve their quality of life
  • Housing wage
  • Fair market rent
  • Area median income
So that...    
Olympia is one community: healthy, safe and housed
  • Rate of cost burdened households