Fifty five or so people shared their thoughts on the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) “affordable housing” project at Monday night’s (June 14) Burien City Council Public Hearing.
Several objected to the development, with a split of around 50/50 for and against.
DESC Burien will be financed by public funding sources such as the Washington State Department of Commerce Housing Trust Fund, the King County Housing Finance Program, and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. vouch services will be receiving operating and funding support from King County. The project will also receive 95 King County Housing Authority vouchers. By working with these public funders, DESC Burien will be required to commit to making the building affordable for 50 years, submit tenant eligibility paperwork each year, and undergo annual unit inspections.
Burien’s Community Development Director Susan McLain and Senior Planner David Johanson briefed the Council on the DESC Affordable Housing Development Project that has been under review for the past several months.
The proposed DESC Burien building would be six floors in height, similar to that of Burien’s Town Square development, and the upcoming Kinect@Burien project. On the ground floor, the building will feature lobby areas, counseling offices, meeting rooms, a kitchen and administrative offices, and an outside courtyard. What the city calls “streetscaping improvements” are planned, including landscaping and sidewalk upgrades.
McLain reminded the Council that in 2019 it adopted the Affordable Housing Demonstration Program which allows up to five demonstration projects, one of which is required to be affordable to households earning up to 30 percent of area median income (AMI). The Burien City Council is responsible for selecting the demonstration projects.
She said that DESC has submitted a proposal to be selected as a demonstration project. It is a “95-unit apartment building that includes professional supportive services to serve people who have previously experienced homelessness. Tenants sign a lease agreement and pay 30 percent of their income on rent. The proposed project is not a temporary shelter and would not provide services to people who are not residents of the building.”
The tenants of the apartments will have typical rights and responsibilities of traditional housing with the added support of onsite case management, onsite property management, and around the clock staffing with 6 or 7 staff on-site during most hours of the day.
It says there will be case managers on site to “assist tenants in connecting with behavioral health providers, attending medical appointments, keeping units clean and in good condition, obtaining Metro passes, paying rent on time, and managing their medication. Other provided support includes some meals as well as onsite activities, therapeutic groups, and crisis management services.”
Councilmember Nancy Tosta said she was concerned with the process by which DESC developed their first such project in Brien and not after similar projects elsewhere, and that all information to the Council came from staff and not from the developer.
The citizens speak
The subject brought forward a large number of people who signed up to tell the Council whether the project should be built, but others waited unsigned in to speak their opinion of the DESC project.
Several said that the DESC project will bring “unhoused people into Burien.” Others said the project will greatly help to house the homeless.
Resident Amy Kangas, as a former employee of DESC, gave her “full support” for the project.
Attorney Alexander Wisbey, who says he represents “concerned citizens and businesses” said “the DESC project does not provide affordable housing, it provides supportive housing for people all around King County with behavioral and or substance abuse issues.” Burien homeless will receive no assistance.”
Burien Tin Room Bar and Restaurant owner Danny House said DESC “does not do as they say, they are a big business with a massive real estate portfolio. They are worth more than all of our small businesses in Burien combined and yet they don’t have to follow any of the code we have followed for years or pay taxes.
“There are zero assurances from DESC if this goes totally wrong… they say they can help the homeless, they can’t.”
Council will vote on DESC at June 21 meeting
The Council will vote on approving or denying DESC’s proposal to the city’s Affordable Housing Demonstration Project at its next meeting on Monday, June 21, 2021.