Update on the housing crisis and homelessness

Dear neighbors, 

One issue that I hear about so often is the housing crisis and homelessness. 

All of our families are affected by the skyrocketing price of housing—and the rise in homeless folks throughout the 24th District and the state. 

This is a national problem, affecting every state, yet we need to take action. This e-newsletter is a quick look at the problem and possible solutions. 

Housing and the workforce shortage

One cause of the housing crisis is simple: the market isn’t building enough housing units to keep up with our state’s growing population. 

While the state does help fund affordable housing, it’s impossible for the state to step in and fill this entire need. It’s not our place, and the cost to taxpayers would be incredible. We need a mix of solutions to encourage new housing construction, including affordable housing. 

The high price of housing is also directly related to how many people are homeless. Every $100 increase in rent is known to boost the number of folks on the streets.  

This issue is also tied to the workforce shortage. Even if a hospital in Port Angeles finds a nurse or doctor and offers them a job, they won’t take that job and move to the area if they can’t find an affordable home nearby. 

So we need more housing across the board, especially housing that’s affordable for working class and middle-class families, while also trying to get people off the streets and out of the weather. More units mean lower prices for everyone. 

Finding solutions to tackle homelessness 

The other part of the homeless problem is that we have different groups with different needs. Many people who lose their home will stay with family or friends, and generally speaking they tend to get back on their feet within a year. The harder problem to solve are folks going through chronic homelessness. Research shows more than 70 percent of those cases involve substance abuse disorders, mental illness, and/or a significant physical disability. 

Last year the legislature passed House Bill 1866, the Apple Health and Homes program. The program places people into permanent housing with wraparound support services.  Stable housing is an indispensable element of health care treatment for persons who have been chronically homeless.   

Investing in behavioral health is a priority for me. I serve on the House the Health, Care & Wellness Committee, and pushed for funding to help this problem. Last year’s state’s budget included:  

  • $51 million to increase the rates for mental health and substance use disorder providers
  • $100 million for behavioral health providers that were impacted by COVID and are desperate for financial assistance to stay in operation
  • $24 million to fund housing and employment for individuals struggling with behavioral health issues
  • $23 million for expanded opioid response programs and supports
  • $35 million to fund crisis, outreach, and diversion programs

More work to be done 

 Washington State Legislative Sup

It will take constant work and creativity to make real progress on this issue, and we have more work to do. There aren’t enough shelter beds for those that are unhoused. Some cities are taking action to create affordable housing for unhoused individuals, yet different cities have different levels of resources and expertise to handle the problem. 

I’ll keep listening to folks from around the 24th District and the state on ways we can work together to make housing more affordable—for essential workers, first-time homebuyers, and the middle class—while pushing hard for more ways to tackle the homelessness crisis. 

I know everyone is impatient about these issues, and that they may seem impossible to solve. But I believe by listening to each other, and working together on new ideas, we can bring down the price of housing for everyone. Because all of the families in the 24th District and the state of Washington need a safe, warm place to call home.