Council Roundup: City moves human services funding forward

Plus, vote on permanent supportive housing analysis, public hearings on Interim Official Controls, Planning Commission appointment and loan restructure

On Monday, the City Council voted to authorize the city to enter into contracts with human services agencies to deliver behavioral health, supportive services and rental assistance programs in Bellevue as a result of House Bill 1590 (HB1590) being passed in the state Legislature in 2020. 

HB1590 instituted a sales tax increase to fund affordable housing and related services. The tax revenue is expected to generate about $8.5 million in 2021 to be used in Bellevue. The council approved $1.66 million of that for housing-related human services funding. The Human Services Commission received 25 applications for funding and recommended that 19 agencies receive funding for their housing-related human services programs.

Deputy Mayor Jared Nieuwenhuis and Councilmember Janice Zahn recused themselves from the vote because they serve on boards for agencies that had applied for funding. The remaining councilmembers unanimously approved moving forward to fund the recommended agencies. More information will be released once the funding reaches these agencies and is made available through their programs. Further detail is available in the meeting materials.

Vote on permanent supportive housing analysis

Also this week, councilmembers reviewed a proposal brought forth by Councilmember Jennifer Robertson to further investigate potential best-practice standards for permanent supportive housing efforts in the city. 

Councilmembers reviewed five topics for consideration to add to the current work plan for permanent supportive housing. In order to more efficiently assess and possibly implement the proposed standards, the council voted on whether to further research two of the five items: providing on-site supportive services; and requiring neighborhood outreach and engagement in the areas near permanent supportive housing projects. 

The council voted 4-3 to continue analyzing the two identified areas of interest, with Mayor Robinson, Deputy Mayor Nieuwenhuis, Councilmember Robertson and Councilmember Lee voting “yes”. Councilmembers Barksdale, Stokes and Zahn voted “no”, citing concerns that the analysis would delay other critical affordable housing work and questioning the overall need for the work when they felt providers are already motivated and qualified to meet best-practice standards.

The full discussion is available on Bellevue Television’s video replay.

Public hearings on interim official controls

In other related business, two public hearings were held on imposing interim official controls to bring city code into compliance with recent changes in state law related to permanent supportive housing and emergency shelter locations in the city, as well as residential occupancy limits. The council earlier voted to proceed with the controls, which last for six months, while the city develops permanent Land Use Code Amendments that align with the new laws.

Washington State House Bill (HB) 1220 was passed in May, and mandated that by July 25, 2021, cities allow permanent supportive housing and transitional housing uses in all land use districts where residential dwellings or hotels are allowed. HB 1220 also requires that by Sept. 30, 2021, cities allow indoor emergency shelters and emergency housing in any land use districts where hotels are allowed. Washington State Senate Bill (SB) 5235 prohibits cities from limiting occupancy for residential buildings, except for those that are related to health and safety, effective July 25, 2021. 

Speakers during the public hearings expressed a desire to better understand the public engagement process, health and safety measures, and density considerations for these types of housing. Councilmembers unanimously approved moving forward with the IOCs and initiating the LUCA process for the permanent regulations, which would include a public engagement process.

The public hearing and council discussion are available on video replay through Bellevue Television.

Planning Commission appointment

In other business, the council approved an appointment to the city’s Planning Commission brought forth by Councilmember Jeremy Barksdale as council liaison to the commission. The council appoints residents to boards, commissions and committees that provide detailed study and recommendations on important policy matters.

Craighton Goeppele will serve a partial term on the Planning Commission expiring May 31, 2023. More information on the selection process is available on the city’s Boards and Commissions web page.

Transportation loan restructure

Later, the council voted to adopt an ordinance that allows for a refinance of the city’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan. The current rate environment is favorable to the city and could substantially reduce the interest rate on the long-term loan, saving the city and taxpayers money. 

Current interest rates on July 27, 2021, were 1.9%, nearly a full percentage point less than the existing loan rate of 2.86%. Councilmembers unanimously voted to re-issue the loan assuming the positive rate environment continues and final terms and negotiations with the U.S. Department of Transportation are completed. The loan will mature in 2056 or 35 years after substantial completion of the related projects, whichever is sooner. 

The TIFIA loan is designed to support infrastructure improvements to alleviate congestion and has allowed Bellevue to fund the BelRed Street Network, which includes a number of multimodal roadways that support the new growth in the BelRed neighborhood.
More detail on the loan restructure is available in the meeting materials

Please Note: The Bellevue City Council will be on recess until Sept. 7, 2021.

Source: City News