The following post appeared in our November edition of our monthly e-newsletter, Building Blocks. Sign up on our mailing list if you’d like to receive updates on our work!
Imagine you were hit with an unexpected medical bill for $400. Would you pay it off in cash? Put it on your credit card? When the Federal Reserve asked American consumers this question, a shocking 47% of respondents said they would not be able to cover an expense of that size.
The survey points to a troubling reality: many people across the country are living paycheck to paycheck. In Seattle, there are over 40,000 low-income households spending more than half of their income on housing, squeezed more and more as rents rise.
When most of your earnings go to keeping a roof over your head, the line between being stably housed and on the street can be very fine. Back in July of 2015, the Committee to End Homelessness in King County presented a study showing that an increase of only $100 in median rent corresponded to a 15% increase in the homeless population.
I am often asked what role CHH has in addressing the homelessness crisis. The answer? A large one. We don’t run homeless shelters, or tent cities, or conduct outreach. But we do own or manage over 1,400 affordable units across the city, and for many of our residents, an affordable place to rent is the difference that keeps them off the street.
We also know that getting people into housing is often only the first step on their journey home. Our resident services staff works tirelessly to connect tenants to resources and opportunities in the community. And when folks fall on times of financial hardship, we provide emergency one-time rental assistance to those who complete a financial education class, to try and keep as many people in their homes as possible.
For families that are making just enough to scrape by, quality, affordable homes close to jobs and public transit can make a world of difference. Next year we are excited to break ground on the 115-unit Liberty Bank Building project, our largest yet. It represents our commitment to make sure that as Seattle grows and changes, we continue to offer housing for people at all income levels. When growth happens, it should help lift all residents, not push some out.
Chris Persons returned from his three-month sabbatical this week, so this will be my last time on the soapbox. We’re all glad he had some time to recharge his batteries, but also excited to welcome him back. May his renewed energy be infectious as we rise to meet new challenges and opportunities in our ongoing fight to keep Seattle affordable for all.
Jill Fleming, Acting CEO