Gov. Inslee outlines 2023 plans to address homelessness

Gov. Jay Inslee is turning his attention to the 2023 legislative session, with plans to prioritize housing and homelessness.

On Wednesday, while touring a homeless shelter in Seattle, Inslee outlined some of his agenda items for January to address the state’s housing crisis.

“We have to build more housing if we’re going to solve this problem,” says Inslee.

He says the state needs more housing and soon. In the short term, he says he wants more shelters and transitional housing to get people back on their feet. The state estimates Washington has 12,000 unhoused residents.

In the longer term, the governor says affordable housing needs to become available. He credits the high rent and home prices to a lack of housing.

The governor touted two initiatives he signed in 2022 as helping to reduce homelessness, with hopes to continue and expand upon them in 2023. The first is the “Right of Way Initiative.” Since this spring, the initiative has meant removing encampments from the side of state roadways by providing housing alternatives. Already it’s been implemented in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.

“We are saving lives as well as removing squalor,” says Inslee about the initiative.

Inslee says another success is the investment in the “Rapid Capital Acquisition Program.” It allows for the purchase of hotel and apartment buildings at affordable rates, to then quickly have them transitioned into homeless housing.

Meeting the state’s housing needs will require more than just construction crews; it requires legislative backing and legislation.

In 2022, the state spent $829 million in housing and homeless services, according to the Washington Office of Financial Management. Inslee says 2023 will require a more aggressive approach and, therefore, more funding.

The governor also expressed hopes to increase affordable housing by making it easier to build. He suggests removing unnecessary zoning rules and allowing for faster permitting.

State Rep. Nicole Macri anticipates housing and homelessness will be a priority with legislators in 2023 as well. “I expect it’s going to be a top issue in terms of investment, but in terms of policy as well,” says Macri.

In addition to housing, Inslee tells KIRO 7 he plans to prioritize mental health resources and green energy in the 2023 legislative session.

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