Addressing King County’s Housing Crisis by Crafting a Data-driven Regional Strategy

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

Like other prosperous American counties, greater King County currently finds itself in the position of possessing both enormous amounts of wealth and staggering levels of homelessness. And while King County has progressed in addressing homelessness, to solve the county’s immense challenge, it needs a clear and rational approach to understanding the issue. To support this work, King County will partner with FUSE Corps for one year to review how stakeholders throughout the region are managing housing growth and allocating resources, building data-driven regional solutions for addressing the county’s housing crisis.

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022. 

PROJECT CONTEXT

Like other prosperous American counties, greater King County currently finds itself in the position of possessing both enormous amounts of wealth and staggering levels of homelessness. King County has enjoyed robust economic growth over the past decade, with both Amazon and Microsoft establishing headquarters in the region. Despite these economic powerhouses, the county continues to battle a homelessness problem of devastating proportions. Seattle and King County rank in the top three areas in the county in homelessness on a per-capita basis, with more than 22,000 households and nearly 4,500 public school students experiencing homelessness in 2018 alone. The economic growth the region has experienced is a leading cause of this homelessness. Housing supply and demand have driven up prices to the point where the average middle- and low-income resident can no longer afford a home, and housing stock, particularly affordable housing, has not kept pace with need.

Unfortunately, homelessness has also worsened measurably during the Covid-19 pandemic. And visible homelessness – encampments along greenbelts and sidewalks, RVs parked in neighborhoods and industrial zones – has grown, with tents in Seattle’s urban center increasing by more than 50% during the pandemic. Moreover, Black and indigenous residents are disproportionately represented in the homeless population; one-quarter of people experiencing homelessness in King County are Black; and while American Indian and Alaskan Native people were 1% of the county population, they consisted of 15% of those experiencing homelessness.

King County has put a renewed emphasis on needing to quickly scale its housing options and bring those experiencing homelessness indoors, especially as the unhoused community is more exposed to the impacts of climate change – such as deadly heatwaves or wildfire smoke – and the rapidly spreading and fatal variants of Covid-19. In mid-2021, the King County Executive declared an ambitious $100 million plan to bring 500 people off the street by year’s end and announced plans to buy hotels to turn into housing for 1,600 residents. This infusion of dedicated American Rescue Plan Act funds will pay for tiny homes, large-scale shelters, behavioral health services, and housing vouchers, and an estimated $40 million of it will go to a jobs program to employ 400 people living in a shelter or housing programs, as well as provide rental subsidies for people in shelters.

While King County has progressed in addressing homelessness, to solve the county’s immense challenge, it needs a clear and rational approach to understanding the issue. King County will partner with FUSE Corps for one year to review how stakeholders throughout the region are managing housing growth and allocating resources. The FUSE Executive Fellow will then build out data-driven regional solutions for addressing the county’s housing crisis. This will include building coalitions of stakeholders and forecasting the housing needs of King County’s residents to drive long-term change and ensure that the county can ultimately provide enough homes for those who need them at a price they can afford. 

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Fellow will work to quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders throughout the region, including various County Departments, such as the Executive’s Office and Department of Community and Human Services; the Regional Housing and Homelessness Authority, King County and Seattle Housing Authorities; city leadership within Seattle; nonprofits in the housing and homelessness space; and advocates and providers of homeless services. 

The Executive Fellow will utilize this initial listening tour to become deeply acquainted with current data sets, data collection systems, and data analysis and storytelling efforts; explicitly focusing on collating data around the existing housing stock, location of housing, the profile of those experiencing homelessness, affordable housing programs and pilots, and funding/resource allocations that support building housing, sourcing housing stock, and housing-based programming. The Executive Fellow will produce a situational analysis report on these current data pools, highlighting gaps in the data and identifying possible new data sources based on the granular information desired by the Department of Assessments team. 

Utilizing a data-driven approach, the Executive Fellow will build a 5-year strategic plan for King County to address its housing crisis. The Executive Fellow will build consensus among key stakeholders, forming a vision for how the county will work regionally to drive change and ensure it can provide enough homes for those who need them at a price they can afford. The Executive Fellow will share data visualizations and craft a narrative of the housing emergency in the county, detailing any expected trends and communicating insights on the data collected. The Executive Fellow will develop and deliver a comprehensive business case for more housing – specifically affordable housing. The strategy will also include recommendations around the types of housing stock the county should provide, which successful housing programs or pilots can be scaled regionally, and public-private partnerships should be leveraged to initiate innovative policy and programming solutions.

The Executive Fellow will then be charged with setting up a holistic implementation framework for this strategy. The Executive Fellow will support capacity-building efforts, establish accountability mechanisms, metrics for tracking progress towards the long-term goal, and funding sources for scaling successful programming or purchasing new housing. Overall, the framework will emphasize an intentionally phased integration of policies and programs that facilitate the generation of affordable housing and support moving people experiencing homelessness into shelter. 

By April 2023, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the development of a comprehensive housing strategy and initiated the parts of the plan that could be acted upon most quickly. This will include the following:

  • Engage internal and external stakeholders to catalyze buy-in – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders; establish strong working relationships with King County agencies, private strategic partners, the business community, community-based organizations and residents, nonprofits, service providers, and advocates in the housing and homelessness space; increase coordination among various housing agencies regionally, to facilitate and break down barriers to strategy implementation
  • Conduct a thorough review of the current landscape, capturing and collating critical data – Research and examine data around: King County’s housing stock, creating an inventory of current options; the need for housing, types of housing (multi-family houses or 3–4-bedroom units, among others), and location of existing housing vs. need; information on those experiencing homelessness or recently unhoused, reviewing success and utilization of housing programs, pilots, and vouchers; map gaps in data and determine missing data sources; pinpoint internal/external sources or partnerships to gather more granular information
  • Develop recommendations and form a comprehensive strategic plan – Identify a shared vision and goal for addressing the housing crisis in King County; build a data-driven business case for building affordable housing regionally; develop holistic recommendations for addressing residents housing needs, scaling successful programs, and sustainably funding initiatives; surface new and innovative partnership opportunities and fiscal resources; cultivate relationships to facilitate public-private and public-nonprofit systems that would facilitate long-term housing growth and policy change;
  • Build an implementation framework and roll-out recommendations – Integrate solutions into a sustainable multi-year framework; prioritize specific strategy recommendations in close consultation with county officials and community partners; define timelines and clear roles of stakeholders, carefully sequencing implementation phases to build momentum and ensure smooth transitions for all key stakeholders; outline deliverables and timelines; oversee implementation of strategies considered low-hanging fruit, initiate quick wins
  • Support long-term implementation – Build internal infrastructure and systems, working with leadership to manage the strategy; map financial resources needed to sustain actions; determine metrics, measuring impact and monitoring progress towards goals; and integrate accountability mechanisms for long-term deployment of the framework 

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – John Wilson, Assessor, Department of Assessments
  • Project Supervisor – Chris Vance, Communications and External Relations Manager, Department of Assessments

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Approximately 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field
  • Background in long-term strategic planning, having a deep understanding of utilizing data collection and analysis for systems building
  • Ability to translate data sets into resources and reports targeted at various audiences, using data visualization and management platforms
  • Robust experience in executing research, crafting narratives with the research and data to support a business case
  • Proven success in cultivating partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative networks of stakeholders
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills, an enate listener with the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
  • Experience working in politically sensitive or bureaucratic environments
  • Flexibility, adaptability, persistence, humility, inclusivity, and sensitivity to cultural differences
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendation
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • A self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who is an independent worker
  • Able to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Supports and understands the strength of diversity, and the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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