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BREAKING: County approves $20 million purchase of bridge-housing units

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash., August 17, 2022 – After approximately 2 hours of public testimony, the Snohomish County Council with a vote of 3-2 today, will move forward with the agreement to purchase two hotels to significantly boost bridge housing with access to behavioral health services within the County.

“The points of agreement between everybody that spoke today, are vastly greater than the disagreements,” County Executive Dave Somers said in his statement of support urging the Council to approve entering into the two sales agreements. “We all agree that we need to provide help for folks… Nobody wants a horrible facility, uncontrolled facility in their neighborhood. I don’t want this in the county. This will not be that.”

Public comments centered on the following themes: accountability, safety, substance use disorder, treatment, and homelessness. Several members of public advocated for the Council to delay the vote citing a proposed ordinance from Councilman Nate Nehring that requires participants in the bridge-housing program to undergo chemical dependency treatment if that person is found to have a substance use disorder.

“The American Rescue plan dollars in the contract we have with the federal government absolutely prohibits denying housing to individuals with disabilities, including [those with] substance use disorders,” Executive Somers shared during the meeting.

The county will be using the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to purchase both hotels – the America’s Best Value Inn in Edmonds for $9,075,000 and the Days Inn facility in Everett for $10,823,000.

During Councilman Sam Low’s questioning to staff of costs to own and maintain both hotels, it was disclosed that the estimated annual maintenance cost per room per year was $20,000 and because of APRA loan conditions, the County would need to utilize the hotels for no less than 20 years.

“If the County were to sell the building(s), the funding could be required to be paid back.,” Kelsey Nyland, Communications Director, Office of Recovery & Resilience, wrote to the Lynnwood Times.

According to the County, the cost to lease the rooms for both hotels would equate to a present-day amount of just over $80 million (129 rooms x $85/room x 365 days x 20 years) over the next 20 years. The cost to purchase and maintain the hotels are projected to be $71.5 million (purchase price + 129 rooms x $20,000/year x 20 years).

The 20-year per unit estimated cost to provide vouchers would equate to $620,500 compared to $554,248 based on the assumptions in the staff analysis to purchase and maintain each unit.

The County anticipates using funds from the 0.1% sales tax increase that went into effect on April 1 of this year to pay for the estimated $2.58 million in annual recurring maintenance costs and will be tailoring a bridge-housing model from literature and best practices from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the State of California Project Homekey program.

Bridge housing is time-limited housing with the intent of individuals stabilizing and moving to permanent housing. Wraparound services staff at the housing site will help each resident access the services they may need, whether that’s food, hygiene, employment services, mental health supports, medical supports, or substance use disorder treatment. Some services will be provided on site and other may be off site.

The County will work with each local jurisdiction to determine how to collaboratively prioritize individuals for service. The bridge-housing program is intended to house unsheltered adults and couples only.

Everett location of the future site for the bridge-housing program, Days Inn located at next to Everett Mall. Source: Wyndham Hotels.

According to both agreements, the County now has 60 days from August 17, 2022, to complete its “due diligence items” and may terminate the agreement upon its findings. Items to condition of sale may include but not limited to property condition, environmental assessments, methamphetamine testing results, and financial records.

Councilmembers voting in the affirmative were Chair Megan Dunn, Vice Chair Jared Mead, and Councilwoman Stephanie Wright.

“I am proud to support the County’s unique approach to provide services and assistance to those who are most vulnerable in our community. I am confident that this investment will help create safer, healthier, and stronger communities for us all,” said Vice Chair Jared Mead.

Now that the sale agreements have been approved, the County will issue a Request for Proposals for service providing organizations to help operate the two hotels.

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