For every household the Seattle Housing Authority currently serves, two more are seeking assistance. Faced with this harsh reality, the Seattle Housing Authority has been considering how the agency could serve more people. This has been a consistently high priority for the Board of Commissioners.
Housing stability is a critically important component for individuals and families to be able to achieve their goals and become successful. Because of the tremendous need for housing for low-income people the Housing Authority has been exploring ways to both assist more people in need, and help households toward their self-sufficiency goals.
In June, the Housing Authority Board authorized staff to seek public comment and feedback on a proposed new rent structure for some households – those who may be described as “work-able.” About 35 percent of Seattle Housing Authority households are in this category. Households are considered work-able if at least one person in the household is between 24 and 61 and does not have a disability that prevents them from working.
Rent for work-able households would no longer be based on income. Instead, it would be based on unit size and the length of time the household has been living there. A work-able household’s rent would rise over time. The proposed policy would apply both to households living in public housing and to those renting with a Housing Choice Voucher.
This proposed rent program, called “Stepping Forward,” would also provide additional assistance to help these individuals with employment. Each work-able adult, with assistance from a workforce professional, would undergo a workforce and education assessment and develop a self-sufficiency plan. Thus, with help and incentives, more households may be able to achieve financial stability and earn enough to give up their housing subsidy.
About two-thirds of the households in subsidized housing now are either elderly or disabled. Many of these households are unable to work and depend on the Housing Authority for their basic housing needs. Stepping Forward rents would not apply to households whose members are all elderly or disabled.
In August and September Seattle Housing Authority will inform residents about the details of the Stepping Forward proposal. Staff will also be answering questions about the proposal and asking for resident comments and suggestions.
In August all households will receive a letter from the Housing Authority with details about the program. Translations will be available in several languages. Information will be posted on www.seattlehousing.org and on Facebook. Staff will also be meeting informally in August with community groups and key community leaders.
In September there will be five public meetings where the proposal will be explained, interpreters will be present and comments will be recorded. These will be held in or near the Housing Authority’s large family communities, including one meeting in north Seattle.
Staff will also be available to answer questions over the phone at 206-615-3366 (Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). If you will need an interpreter on the phone, please be able to say the language you speak and your phone number in English.
After considering comments and suggestions, staff will submit a final recommendation to the Seattle Housing Authority Board of Commissioners for a decision by the end of the year. If approved, the new policy would take effect in 2016.