Seattle is in the midst of an economic boom, as new workers flock to our city and new buildings pepper our skyline. At the same time, we are experiencing rising rates of inequality and soaring costs of living. As our city grows, young people experiencing homelessness and/or unstable housing are uniquely at risk of being left behind.
We cannot deny the need for more affordable housing. Seattle rents have gone up by 89% in the past eight years, and a new report released by McKinsey & Company found a 96% statistical correlation between the region’s rent increases and the increase in homelessness. In 2017, King County was short approximately 14,000 affordable housing options for people experiencing homelessness. Overall, the County has a shortage of approximately 50,000 affordable units for low-income residents.
Young people experiencing homelessness are disproportionately impacted by Seattle’s lack of affordability due to their age and lack of employment and housing history—not to mention the trauma and barriers of not having a safe place to call home. YouthCare increasingly struggles to exit young people in our care to market-rate housing because there are simply no places for them to go. Without affordable housing, we cannot realistically achieve successful housing outcomes so young people can exit homelessness.
We know our region needs between $360 and $410 million to tackle our homelessness crisis at scale. The City’s employee hours tax will not fix our homelessness crisis, but it will be a step forward. Ultimately, we will need a larger, multi-pronged approach to end homelessness in our region. Our City’s residents and businesses cannot bear these costs alone: we must push for support at the county, state, and federal level. We must also reexamine our housing policies—such as permitting, zoning, and density—that can slow or prevent us from building more affordable housing.
YouthCare is grateful for the culture of philanthropy in our region and for the generosity of our business community. We are grateful to our City leaders for making tough compromises to address our City’s inequity and to ensure that everyone can have a place to call home. We look forward to partnering with lawmakers and business leaders to end the experience of homelessness for youth and young adults in our region.