EVERETT — Mayor Ray Stephanson on Thursday got an inside look at a Seattle low-barrier housing community that is similar to what he wants to build in Everett.
Stephanson toured the Patrick Place Apartments in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, a 71-unit building built in 2014 for people who were formerly homeless.
The visit was organized by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who called homelessness and affordable housing a major challenge across the country. The Washington Democratic senator urged Congress to increase the federal low-income housing tax credit.
“We are going to push our colleagues to sign and support this legislation, and ultimately get it passed this year,” Cantwell said. “We know that’s a big challenge, but as you know can see the housing crisis is a big challenge.”
Stephanson toured the facility with Cantwell, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and advocates for affordable housing.
“My sense is it’s very much like what we want to do with our housing,” Stephanson said.
Everett has been developing a low-barrier housing program for the chronically homeless. The city has so far provided housing at scattered sites for seven people, but its long-term plan is to build a dedicated facility with 60 units of housing and social services provided on-site.
The city has applied for the tax credit and is seeking more funding through the Legislature and other sources.
Stephanson said the city intends to buy property near downtown within the next 60 days. Catholic Community Services of Western Washington would manage the site and coordinate services for the residents.
Everett has used the low-income housing tax credit program to help fund about 2,900 units over the years, including the Everett Housing Authority’s 141-unit Broadway Plaza development, the 209-unit Eagle’s Landing Apartments and the 214-unit Bluffs at Evergreen complex.
Supporters say the low-income housing tax credit is the most effective tool in getting affordable housing built in cities and states. The program has helped build nearly 3 million housing units nationwide since it was created 30 years ago. About 75,400 affordable housing units have been built in Washington state.
The tax credit program is even more valuable in smaller cities like Everett, Stephanson said.
He pointed out that Snohomish County has a 2 percent vacancy rate and has construction costs comparable to that of Seattle, but rents are still lower.
Without added support of programs like the tax credit, Stephanson said, “we can’t get developers to build anything.”