• Council Roundup: Human Services Needs Update

    Plus, Multifamily affordable housing program improvements and Bellevue School District briefing

    On Monday, the City Council received a report on the 2021-2022 Human Services Needs Update, which guides the funding process for using funds available in the Human Services Fund (the Fund). The Fund supports agencies in the community providing direct services and assistance to community members in the most immediate areas of need to ensure residents have the support necessary for a high quality of life. 

    Bellevue is in the process of collecting data to identify the most critical areas of focus, which will then be incorporated into the Human Services Needs Update. The city is gathering this data through a multi-pronged approach of phone and online surveys, community conversations, provider surveys and consumer surveys. Due to the pandemic, community conversations will be conducted virtually. 

    Data will be collected through the summer of 2021 and local agencies will be able to apply for funding in March 2022. The Human Services Commission will then review the data and the applications to determine recommended funding based on community needs and areas of focus aligned with council priorities. The council is expected to review and take action on the recommendations in 2022 as part of the biennial budget deliberations.

    Human services needs in the community were pushed to record levels during the pandemic, outpacing resources available in the Fund. During the last funding process, the Fund had just over $4 million available and the city received requests for funding in the amount of $7 million across more than 100 applications from local agencies. Bellevue allocated an additional $3.9 million outside of the normal funding cycle to support the urgent needs specific to the COVID-19 health crisis, including emergency financial assistance, food, childcare, legal assistance, low-barrier shelters, mental health and domestic violence support. 

    The presentation and further information on the Human Services Needs Update and the Fund are available in the meeting materials

    Multifamily affordable housing program improvements

    Later, councilmembers continued their discussion on improvements to the city’s Multifamily Tax Exemption program, or MFTE. 

    The city has been looking for ways to increase the participation and efficacy of the MFTE program in Bellevue to provide more affordable housing units and meet related policy objectives. Recently, affordable housing stakeholders came together to develop feedback and recommendations on strategies for achieving more affordable housing.

    The group proposed four recommendations in the areas of expanding MFTE incentives to smaller-sized units for certain developments, the affordability level when MFTE is overlaid with density incentives, rent stabilization and cost burden reduction strategies, and providing a parking discount for MFTE tenants.

    Councilmembers discussed the recommendations and the city will incorporate feedback from stakeholders and the council to create a proposal for the program update. It will be reviewed publicly in later sessions. 

    Bellevue School District briefing

    In other business, Bellevue School District Superintendent Ivan Duran presented an update to councilmembers as the district prepares to bring more students back to in-person learning next week. 

    Prior to spring break, the district was serving some elementary grades in person. Starting next week, students from all grades who wish to resume in-person learning would be able to physically attend school. The district reported they have put numerous risk mitigation strategies in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 in schools. 

    Duran mentioned the district has enough emergency funding to support 1-2 years of pandemic recovery work but expects full recovery could take up to five years. Other major concerns mentioned were student mental health, academic recovery for students who fell behind during the pandemic and lower enrollment numbers. The district plans to address these issues by offering more tutoring and virtual learning options, more language programs, and additional support and counseling for families. 

    The full discussion is available on video replay through Bellevue Television. 

    Published on 04/22/2021