Affordable housing inventory shrinking in growing local economy

Housing costs are rapidly reaching new highs here on the Eastside and in many areas around the country. Here is a map of the U.S. showing the wages needed to afford decent housing in each state.  Washington State is among the highest cost states in the country.

Affordable housing has been an issue for some time now, but recent statistics tell us that it is taking on a new urgency. In spite of the prosperous economy in our region, the homeless population is growing rather than shrinking. Too many people are being forced to live on the streets and in cars.  We can’t let this crisis persist.

Imagine Housing is on the forefront of finding solutions to this growing problem, and we do it with compassion, ingenuity and creativity. Our work is truly meaningful. What really impressed me about our organization is the fact that we not only work toward developing affordable housing solutions; we also offer wraparound services for children and their parents and for our senior residents. The support systems we have developed over time are helping our residents to lead more positive and productive lives. Great things are happening here!

I recently joined Imagine Housing as an accountant. As an accountant, it is obvious that I enjoy working with numbers and spreadsheets. But, I am also passionate about working for an organization whose purpose and goal is to improve individual lives and to fulfill a great need in our community. Affordable housing is indeed one of the great needs of our day.

Join me in spreading the word…our community needs more affordable housing!

~Andrea Stevens, Accountant

2015 Supportive Services highlights

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” ~Jackie Robinson

2015 was filled with challenges, successes and hopes for the Supportive Services team.  The Supportive Services team provided services to over 641 residents at Imagine Housing properties.  I’m excited to share with you the highlights of 2015:

RESOURCE REFERRALS and COMMUNITY EVENTS were offered to residents living at Imagine Housing properties:

  • Residents received 4,246 resource referrals. These included assistance with transportation, utility bills, childcare, and healthcare.
  • Over 172 hours of community events were held including community meals, trainings and activities.
  • 88% of residents said that supportive services increases the sense of community at their property.

YOUTH PROGRAMS, including afterschool programs and summer enrichment programs, were provided to youth living at nine Imagine Housing properties:

  • 1147 hours of youth programming were offered at our properties serving 146 youth.
  • 88% of youth reported an increase in their communication skills.
  • 88% of youth reported an increase in their leadership skills.
  • 91% of youth reported an increase in their conflict management skills.
  • 8% of youth say that Imagine Housing’s afterschool programs promote a safe and welcoming environment.
  • 98% of youth believe that Imagine Housing provides the support they need to complete their homework.
  • 97% of parents said that Imagine Housing’s afterschool programs increased their child’s ability to make informed and responsible choices.

CASE MANAGEMENT was offered to families and individuals that are formerly homeless living at Imagine Housing properties and choosing to participate in services:

  • Imagine Housing staff delivered over 3,167 hours of case management.
  • 91% of residents actively worked on their personal goal plan.
  • 83% of residents who are diagnosed with or are experiencing a mental health or chemical dependency issue participated in recovery or treatment programs.
  • 77% of residents participated in financial management classes, job skills training, a higher education program, or another employment training program.
  • 80% of residents with chronic mental health issues or significant disabilities participated in enriching and skill increasing activities, such as volunteering, community building activities, or exercise.
  • 82% of residents who were able to work achieved employment or increased their employment income within the year.

Although these statistics paint a picture of the impact our on-site services have on the lives of our residents, they don’t tell the full story of the incredibly diverse and amazing residents our staff get to meet and work with every day. Our residents have incredible strength and perseverance that allows them to work through life’s challenges and forge positive changes in their lives. We are thankful to walk along side of them in this journey.

Thank you to all of the Imagine Housing Supportive Services staff for the incredibly hard work you did in 2015 and continue to do in 2016.

~Rachel Mathison, Director of Supportive Services

Reflections on our 2016 Advocacy Day

This past Tuesday, 13 Imagine Housing representatives (including staff, Board members, and residents) traveled to Olympia to join more than 600 other advocates to ask our legislators to support more affordable housing in King County and Washington State. We knew this would be a tough ask: it’s the 2nd year of the biennium so the budget is already made and changing it is a difficult task. Plus, Washington is facing more than the typical challenges in an off-budget year. Between the McCleary decision and needing to increase funds for education and the wildfires that consumed much of Eastern Washington last year, it is difficult to find money for other issues. We expected we’d have to fight to have our voices heard above all the other cries for action this year – but it turns out we need to fight harder than we expected.

Our state and county are facing a homelessness and housing crisis of proportions we have not seen in our lifetimes. Last week, the One Night Count of people sleeping outside and unsheltered delivered news that many expected, but that still managed to shock us all – an increase of 19 percent county-wide, after a 21 percent increase the year before. This is a 44 percent increase in homelessness over two years. The increase in East King County was 80 percent.  And this year, we face a $7.5 million shortfall in funding for programs that reduce and prevent homelessness. This all has been the result of an intersection of issues: inadequate mental health and addiction treatment, increasing income disparity, a history of racial segregation and discrimination, a sorely inadequate supply of shelter beds throughout the county, and now a sudden surge in home prices and demand for housing that has pushed many of those who could just afford their rent before onto the street.

We are fighting for something incredibly important that affects the lives, livelihoods and futures of thousands of people. We weren’t making small asks in Olympia either. We were asking our state representatives not only for legislation, but for nearly $20 million in additional funding for these issues. Ten-million dollars from the capital budget to go directly toward funding the development of new affordable housing, and $7.5 million to fill the shortfall in homeless support programs. We were also fighting for much-needed tenant protections that for years have had unfair and lasting impacts on families with low-incomes: fair and affordable tenant screenings, fair reporting of past evictions, and outlawing discrimination based on source of income or use of a Section 8 voucher. All of these barriers effectively keep many people from securing safe, stable, affordable places to live. And yet the practices remain in place, and it is up to our legislators to create policies to change them.

It is up to us to speak on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves. To tell our legislators that when a person with a low-income has an eviction on their record—even if they were not at fault—it becomes very difficult to ever rent again in today’s tight housing market. And to share with them that we have more than 2,500 individuals and families with low-incomes that are waiting for one of our affordable apartments. To help them understand how impossible it is for a single mother earning less than $15 an hour to afford rent in Kirkland or Bellevue, close to her job, where a two-bedroom apartment costs upwards of $2,000 a month.

This week marks halfway point through the 2016 legislative session in Washington State. By 5pm this Friday, all bills that will be voted on by the legislature must have been heard and voted on in their policy committee. Any bill not yet heard will be pronounced dead for the session.

So we ask you: if you care about these issues; if you want to see more diversity in your community; if you can fathom how difficult and cold it is to sleep outside every night; if you understand the life-long repercussions of being a homeless child; if you see that the private market is not filling a critical need for affordable housing, and that the government must step in to help, please call your legislator today and ask them to vote yes on providing $10 million to fund affordable housing. Tell them it is all of our responsibility, and they need to find a way to fund it. Tell them that you want to welcome affordable housing into your community. Tell them that this matter is urgent, and it cannot wait.

~Kathryn Jacoby, Operations Coordinator

Our newest development, Athene

I am excited to announce that last week we received a preliminary award notification of a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) allocation from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission for Athene (Totem Lake Phase II Senior). Our LIHTC allocation is the last remaining component of funding that is competitively applied for and awarded. In December we received preliminary funding awards from ARCH, King County and Washington State Department of Commerce.

Thank you to my coworkers, our volunteers, residents and Board members for their assistance with project planning, completing the funding applications and ongoing advocacy. Above all, thank you for making Imagine Housing and Red Vines 1 strong organizations so that our public funders are confident that we will use the public investment wisely and in the best interests of the community.

We are looking forward to starting construction this summer and creating our new community with 91 apartments for residents that are 62+. Learn more about Athene here.

My only wish is that all of the proposed communities could be fully funded so that there could be even more affordable housing coming soon.

~Sibyl Glasby, Director of Housing Development

Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

During the Cultural Competency Committee meetings, we educate ourselves about the history of racism and America and how this relates to the work we do. Our residents represent different races, cultures and ethnicities so it is important to understand the challenges that uniquely affect marginalized groups. When we know more about what our residents experience on a day to day basis, we become more equipped in addressing the historical inequities in society and how we can best support our residents. Today I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on a man who stood up for equal rights for all people.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspiring man leaving a legacy that has impacted the world. His role in the Civil Right Movement was monumental because of his ability to deliver powerful messages, such as I Have a Dream, and inspire action in his community and throughout the U.S.

King was aware of the barriers it took to achieve racial justice and shamed Americans for not standing up against racism. He saw alliance with people of all races as necessary to dismantle racism. He also noticed that even when black people were nonviolent, dressed formally and protested on the sidewalk, it was not enough to avoid the violence. Furthermore, many white moderates were still not moved to action by witnessing the outright oppression of black people. In his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail Dr. King writes, ”I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” This quote demonstrates Dr. King’s frustration with those who are able to speak out but remain silent. He understood that the fight for justice will not always be peaceful but that disruption is necessary to inspire change.

Forty-eight years after his death, we are witnessing another movement emerge to challenge the racist structures in America, Black Lives Matter. Many of the same issues called into question from the Civil Rights era are being reexamined in 2016. Both movements have spoken about the violence in communities of color and the disparate treatments when it comes to arrests, charges, convictions and sentencing. The Civil Rights Movement is mentioned as a golden era where black folks gained equality but the new generation of millennials are rejecting the black progress narrative. The protests Dr. King led disrupted business as usual and this is the goal of Black Lives Matter.

In whatever capacity you can, speak out against injustices. We all have influence somewhere in our lives but if we continue to be silent, nothing will ever change. I believe it is every American’s duty to fight for an equitable society that leads to true liberty and justice for all.

~Frederick Bell, Resident Services Coordinator