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Why isn’t Seattle building affordable housing?

A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

What would it cost to solve homelessness? And by solve, I mean get everyone housed and those that need treatment would get treatment.

Timeline: Understanding Seattle’s homeless issues

That seems like a straightforward question. In fact, it is. But it turns out to be very difficult to answer.

That’s what The Seattle Times Project Homelessness team attempted to do. They ran a poll and this was the second most asked question about the homelessness crisis by the people in the Puget Sound area. You can go read their entire article yourself, but the short answer is “we don’t know what it would cost.”

Granted, this is a complicated problem. There is not one solution that will work for every homeless person. I get that, but shouldn’t there at least be a master plan with a ball park budget out there somewhere?

If that seems crazy to you, you’re not alone. We are now well past the expiration date on the 10-year plan to end homelessness, and we’re nearly three years into our declared state of emergency about homelessness and yet the most basic question has yet to be answered.

Seems like a good place to start to me.

While we all ponder why that is the way it is, I’ll offer up this other angle. Paul Allen’s foundation is breaking ground Tuesday on a new 8-story building in South Seattle that will house 94 families to the tune of $46 million dollars. Those are dollars not included in any official city or county budget. This is less than a week after Jeff Bezos pledged $2 billion towards his own foundation.

Does anyone recall a groundbreaking ceremony where the city or the county started building a new 8-story structure? Me either.

Why is that?

As I’ve talked about before, the government controls hundreds of parcels of land. They also control hundreds of millions of tax dollars allocated towards this problem. They also oversee the building permit office and elected officials have been droning on about affordable housing for years.

As long as we’re pondering obvious questions, I’ll ask again, why are local officials not building housing?

There should be so many ground breaking ceremonies that we can’t keep up any more. Only that’s not happening. Instead, we get plywood tiny house villages and tents on the sidewalk.

As summer turns to fall on another year, can we please have some leaders that stop talking about affordable housing and start building affordable housing?

“What Are We Talking About Here” can be heard every weekday at 4:50 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. on the Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.

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