City Council approves dollars for affordable housing

February 28, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Officials used $55,249 in city funds to build affordable housing in other King County cities, including a planned Kirkland shelter for homeless youths and a Bellevue shelter for homeless women.

City Council members approved the expenditure to A Regional Coalition for Housing — a joint group including King County and 15 Eastside cities — in a unanimous decision Feb. 6. Issaquah officials used leftover funds from Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72 construction to fund affordable housing projects.

“This was one of those last-minute budget decisions that came out of our budget discussion at the end of last year,” Councilman Mark Mullet said. “We decided ARCH was important.”

Janet Olin, a board member for The Sophia Way, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting homeless women, said ARCH funds could enable the organization to remodel a Bellevue space to double The Sophia Way’s capacity.

“The women who are clients of The Sophia Way need access to affordable housing,” she said before the council decision. “Without ARCH funds, this would not be possible.”

The expanded capacity means residents should no longer need to sleep on the floor due to space considerations.

“Shelter is often the first step in the journey from the streets to affordable housing,” Olin said.

In the past, ARCH supported the YWCA Family Village at Issaquah complex and Habitat for Humanity of East King County construction in the Issaquah Highlands.

The council praised ARCH for fostering cooperation and leadership in the region.

“ARCH is a great example of a number of local municipalities pooling their resources and addressing needs for housing that otherwise wouldn’t be taken care of by the marketplace in general,” Councilman Paul Winterstein said.

Members also addressed the question of why city funds benefit projects in other municipalities.

“These particular projects that we’re approving this evening are not going to be anything that are housed here in Issaquah, but within the region of where the coalition serves,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said. “It is a broad region. There is great benefit.”

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