July 13, 2024 6:12 pm

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Lynnwood Council discusses equity survey results and ARPA funds for housing

LYNNWOOD, June 9, 2022 – The Lynnwood City Council reviewed its findings from the city’s Community Equity Survey, discussed potentially utilizing ARPA funds for rental assistance and rapid-housing through Volunteers of America, and was briefed on Community Transit’s long range planning strategy at their Business Meeting, Monday, June 6.

Community Equity Survey

The City of Lynnwood launched its inaugural Community Equity Survey and engagement effort in 2021 to better understand community members’ experience with Lynnwood as a safe, welcoming, and equitable community. The survey explored how community members view belonging, safety, civic engagement, and interactions with government.

In partnership with BDS Planning, the City of Lynnwood executed a distribution and engagement strategy to ensure Lynnwood’s most underserved communities would feel supported in engaging in the survey. Spanning 36 questions and covering various topics participants were asked questions including if they felt safe, accepted, appreciated and what they would like to see the city do differently.

In order to ensure the survey properly reached the most unserved populations, the city partnered with the Latino Education and Training Institute, Snohomish County Korean Woman’s Association, the YWCA, and the Lynnwood Food Bank.

At the close of the survey collection period, a total of 824 surveys were collected across four languages (Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and English). The findings reflect a largely representative sample of the Lynnwood population at 64% White, 14% as Asian, 7.7% Black or African American, 8.9% as Multicultural, and 19% as Latino or Hispanic.

The survey found that 63% of respondents ultimately felt safe in Lynnwood and only 14% said otherwise. Respondents also said they rarely experienced unfair treatment when interacting with other people or institutions, however for those that identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or disabled the frequency of those feeling unfairly treated was higher than those who did not classify as one of these categories. The most common responses to why they felt unsafe related to dealing with police, government, or the physical environment (pedestrian, construction, or inadequate transportation. According to the survey, 47% of participants reported that they genuinely feel their culture is accepted in Lynnwood.

Low-income housing, expended child care, and better public transportation were shared as ways to improve quality of life in Lynnwood, as well as some other issues such as police response and pot holes.

“I want to underscore just how important I think this work is for Lynnwood as it moves deliberately and diligently toward a future that is much more diverse, multi-cultural, multiethnic, and varied than at any moment in Lynnwood’s past. Brian Scott, founder of BDS Planning, said. “I just want to applaud the city for making this effort to understand how the community’s changing.”

ARPA Fund Options

Representatives from Volunteers of America (VOAWW), Galina Valchova and Brian Smith, also shared with council potential programs to invest their American Rescue Plan Act dollars to address the issues of housing and rental assistance in the area.

Councilwoman Julieta Altamirano-Crosby met with VOAWW previously to discuss rental assistance and believes the program is a good option to serve Lynnwood residents.

VOAWW has received about $100 million for rental assistance, Valchova stated, and currently has about $19 million left. With this money Valchova added that VOAWW has been able to stabilize around 15,000 Snohomish County households. The remaining $19 million will be able to stabilize about 2,000 more homes, Valchova speculates, but most of the families helped were determined to require repeat assistance.

Lynnwood residents qualify for the VOAWW rental assistance program if they have financial strains that are directly linked to the pandemic. The program pays up to 18 months of rental assistance per household.

Council Vice President Jim Smith expressed some concerns that residents may take advantage of the program and added that he would like to make sure the dollars would be going to landlords and not tenants directly.

After some clarifying questions from council, Brian Smith presented another options: Rapid Rehousing, which is a way of targeting chronic homelessness by providing a roof over people’s head, for up to a year, while they get their feet back on the ground.

VOAWW is requesting $250,000 from the city’s ARPA funds to go toward this effort and, if council votes to approve, the County has agreed to match the dollar amount for a total of $500,000.

Councilwoman Shannon Sessions asked VOAWW if it came down to one option or the other, which VOAWW would provide. Valchova noted that it really comes down to what the council ultimately decides that is most needed for the area.

“It’s up to the city of Lynnwood to decide what is the most meaningful approach with the funds you have available,” Valchova said.

Councilman Patrick Decker mentioned that if it came down to deciding one program to fund, he would prioritize rental assistance over rapid re-housing to help those in need that already have current living situations.

Councilman Jim Smith expressed concerns for the program making the point that many people who are experiencing homelessness are also experiencing drug abuse and he would prefer to see them get assistance with that first before placing them in housing.

No decision was made and the decision to vote on the proposed programs will return to council at a later date.

Community Transit 2024 Network and Long-Range Planning

Ric Ilgenfritz, CEO for Community Transit, closed out the meeting by presenting council an update on Network and Long Ranging Planning for future transportation services and how it will align with regional transportation.

Some highlights are focusing on a zero-emission strategy, expanding service to the Swift Blue Line (down to Shoreline), the Swift Orange line, the Swift Green Line (down to Bothell), and emphasizing corridor focus for other frequent routes. Community Transit has also begun planning a Gold Line that will run north to Arlington in the near future.

The Lynnwood on-demand Pilot project, is also expected to begin testing in late 2022 which would allow residents to request transportation services through a mobile app, pick them up at a set location, and drop them off along a specific route (in this case around the Alderwood area).

“COVID has changed many things for us in the northwest and one of those is transit,” Ilgenfritz said. “These initiatives are really trying to get at the future of transit.”

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