Everett Explains Low Barrier Housing Choice Ahead Of Council Vote

November 8, 2016

Everett, Everett Government

The City of Everett today issued a public notification regarding the selection of the property at Bershire and Evergreen Way as the Low Barrier Housing Choice for the city’s first project. Here’s what they had to say…

low barrier housing choice

The favored site is on Berkshire behind the Peking Duck and Jiffy Lube east of Evergreen Way.

This Wednesday the Everett City Council will vote on a resolution that would endorse a path forward to build 70 units of supportive housing on City-owned property off Evergreen Way at Berkshire Drive.

The property, which sits at the heart of the city and at the intersection of four neighborhoods, was chosen after an extensive review of potential locations throughout the city. The site is very well suited to providing safe and effective housing for individuals transitioning from homelessness to life in their own apartments and in our community.

One year ago, the City launched the Safe Streets Plan, which includes supportive housing as a key ingredient for addressing the growing challenge of homelessness, mental illness, substance use, and poverty that is visible on the streets of Everett.
“Building supportive housing is a proactive approach to the complex challenge of homelessness,” said Mayor Stephanson. “There are many examples of communities around our state who are being forced to take extreme measures to accommodate growing homeless populations camping on their streets, sidewalks and parks. I believe that if we don’t take meaningful, significant actions now, we will find ourselves facing the same crisis.”

Supportive housing is a newer concept for Everett, but it is a proven model that has been used with great success throughout the state and country. We have spent the past year learning how to expand the “housing first” strategy in our community and how to site and develop a successful facility. This process included evaluating potential locations, selecting a developer, and engaging our community in conversations about how to make significant, lasting progress in dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction on our streets.

We identified the property on Berkshire Drive because it met the criteria for a successful housing project: in a mixed-use neighborhood near residential, close to major transit routes and amenities, and large enough for a building that will house 70 residents.
On May 2, the Everett Housing Authority announced a June 14 deadline for project-based housing vouchers, a critical funding source for this project. In order to allow potential developers time to apply for the vouchers, the City announced the proposed location on May 10, and on May 11, the City Council approved an RFQ for developers to build and operate the facility. While we would have preferred to notify nearby residents of the site selection prior to the broad public announcement, the critical funding deadline necessitated a quicker timeline at the beginning of the project. However, the City has been actively engaged in community outreach about the supportive housing project since May, including multiple neighborhood and community meetings, email updates, one-on-one conversations, door-to-door visits and a community forum.

Between May and September, Catholic Housing Services completed an extensive independent review of the property and determined that it is ideally suited for supportive housing. With Council’s approval, we will begin the SEPA process later this month. SEPA provides for an in-depth review of the project, opportunities for public comment, and identification of potential improvements that could be made to the neighborhood as part of the project.

The environmental review will include several categories of potential impacts, including energy and natural resources, plants and animals, environmental health, aesthetics, transportation, and public services.

We heard from many members of the public at the Nov. 2 Council meeting. In addition to community members who spoke in support of the proposed facility and the need to use long-term strategies for dealing with homelessness, some residents who live near the proposed facility shared their concerns about the how the facility might impact the nearby neighborhood.

In advance of this week’s meeting, we wanted to share responses to some of the recent questions raised by community members, as well as additional information about the supportive housing model and what the City has learned about long-term solutions to homelessness over the past several years:

 There is additional information on our website, including extensive FAQs about the Housing First approach and the proposed project off Evergreen Way.

The last item on the City Council agenda Wednesday (Nov 9th) is a vote on the low barrier housing choice. The meeting starts at 6:30 PM in the Everett City Council chambers at 3002 Wetmore in downtown Everett.

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