King County has purchased an additional hotel under its Health Through Housing initiative that leverages a small sales tax to raise millions of dollars of revenue to purchase supportive housing, this one in Redmond.
The former Silver Cloud Inn was acquired for approximately $28 million and will add 144 individual housing units.
Director of King County Department of Community and Health Services, Leo Flor, said the pandemic has created a unique opportunity to purchase hotel property at a far more affordable price because of how hard the hospitality industry had been hit.
County officials said purchasing these properties to be converted into supportive housing is far cheaper and quicker than constructing facilities from nothing.
The estimated cost of building housing was expected to be somewhere around $400,000 per unit, according to county officials, while the Silver Cloud Inn acquisition works out to be close to half that cost.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, said Health Through Housing represents an “opportunity to rethink the approach” of mitigating homelessness in the region.
He said purchasing hotels to serve as housing was an idea spawned out of necessity during the pandemic, as COVID-19 made congregational shelters far more hazardous to public health.
During that period, the University of Washington studied the effectiveness of the “housing first” approach as compared to housing contingent on things like getting sober or finding a job. According to Constantine, the study found that getting placed into personal housing seemed to be far more effective in terms of getting formerly homeless people to a point of self-dependence and self-reliance.
“We are rapidly scaling up this solution,” said Constantine.
Now six months into the program, he says the county has acquired 400 additional units of housing collectively and expects to eventually have 1600 with Health Through Housing.
Flor said he believes the county will acquire more than a dozen properties in total.
Each of the facilities purchased will have contract providers to offer wrap-around services such as nutritional staff, behavioral health and occupational support. Flor said cities will be involved in deciding which provider their respective facilities will use.
He expects the former Silver Cloud Inn to be staffed and ready for residents by this Fall.
Redmond Mayor, Angela Birney, called homelessness a “regional crisis” that cannot be solved by any one city alone.
She characterized the issue as a “complex challenge,” both for the individuals experiencing it and the communities trying to help.
Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), added that homeless people are homeless for varying reasons, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.