The Covington City Council unanimously approved a resolution during the March 12 council meeting to join the South King Housing and Homelessness Partnership and to sign an interlocal agreement.
The council previously agreed to fund SKHHP as part of the city’s budget. The first year of contribution to this two-year partnership is $5,837, according to the city council agenda packet.
SKHHP is a coalition of jurisdictions that is committed to supporting the preservation of healthy and affordable housing, according to the coalition’s website.
“This was not in our original city budget and I’m the one that brought it forward to add to the annual and the council agreed. It’s a very small investment for Covington for accomplishing so much. I’m proud to be apart of it,” Councilmember Marlla Mhoon said during the council meeting.
By signing the agreement, the city creates an operating fund for payment of SKHHP operations, creates an advisory board to provide advice and so on. Two members of city staff will be chosen to join the advisory board — a representative on the board and an alternate — according to a presentation at the council meeting.
The coalition has been going to various South King County cities to give them the opportunity to join its advisory board to get together to come up with solutions to homelessness and low income housing within the area.
“We’ve heard from a number of communities that seniors in communities are having a difficult time aging in place because they can’t afford rents or home ownership costs. Workers are having a hard time in some South King County communities now finding rents in close location to their place of employment,” John Howell, a representative from Cedar River Group, said during the council meeting.
He continued, “The signs of homelessness have started popping up in communities that have not had that before. We’re hearing lots of different ways in which the housing challenges are showing themselves in South King County.”
Howell said it is estimated that by 2040, an additional 244,000 affordable housing units will be needed in King County to meet the affordable housing need. He also said within just the next five years, an additional 44,000 units will be needed.
The term “affordable housing” is commonly meant to mean households that are spending 30 percent of their income or more on housing and utilities, Howell said.
Households that do spend 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities are considered “cost burdened.” Those that spend more than 30 percent are considered “severely cost burdened.”
According to an infographic on the coalition’s website, three in 10 households in Covington are considered to be cost burdened.
An example of a work plan to improve these statistics and help with housing and homelessness in South King County would be helping local jurisdictions create new affordable housing by including mixed use housing, Howell said.
He also said another example would be discussing housing preservation strategies by protecting and improving already existing low income housing.
Regan Bolli, Covington City Manager, said next steps for the city are deciding who will be committing to the advisory board and who will be the alternate.
Bolli said he would most likely be part of the board, or the back up, but it’s up to council to decide during the March 26 council meeting.
While council agreed to support SKHHP, they did have a couple of questions and concerns for Howell to address.
Councilmember Sean Smith said he’s concerned with how fast the population is growing.
“I plan on supporting this. One of the things I’m worried about is our region is very attractive, people want to be here. Part of the reason it’s attractive is we have a lot of clean open spaces. What communities are finding if you got two choices – you either grow out or you grow up,” Smith said. “I guess what I’m saying is the reason people come here is for the quality of life and what’s attractive. We are slowly destroying what we come here for. We got to get control of our population growth. I know this isn’t going to solve that (how to control population), but choice has got to come soon. We just can’t keep going.”
Howell said SKHHP will hopefully have an executive board meeting in the early part of April, which would include other board members from other cities that are apart of SKHHP.