• Council Roundup: Regional Homelessness Authority update

    Published September 30 2021

    Plus, state of the county and Bellevue’s water supply discussed

    On Monday, the City Council received a report from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), a body created to coordinate policy, funding and services for those experiencing homelessness in King County in response to feedback that the fractured nature of homelessness response was a barrier to addressing the growing issue with effective solutions. 

    In 2019, an Interlocal Agreement was set up between King County and the City of Seattle to create the KCRHA, which would administer King County funding to service providers in the area using an annualized budget of approximately $140 million. Other cities across King County have the option to join and contribute additional funding. 

    The authority’s work plan priorities in 2022 include contracting and planning activities to effectively engage stakeholders and partners to support the body of work. As part of the process of developing a five-year regional homelessness plan, KCRHA is engaged in sub-regional planning, which the City of Bellevue is participating in along with other cities on the Eastside. In addition, KCRHA is seeking additional funding to gather high-quality data, involve those with lived experience as peer navigators to help individuals navigate systems and pursue housing options that bridge people from shelters or encampments to permanent housing. 

    The full presentation can be viewed on replay through Bellevue Television and the county plans to release a snapshot of progress made toward the work on its website.

    State of the county

    In other business, King County councilmember Reagan Dunn, who represents people from eight cities in the region including about 32 thousand people in Bellevue, gave an update on the state of the county. 

    He discussed the county’s impressive COVID-19 vaccination rates, including more than 90% of eligible Bellevue residents who have been fully vaccinated. As the county continues to respond to the pandemic, the report listed eviction prevention, rental assistance and business support among the current focus areas, citing 40,000 people in the county currently at risk of eviction when the statewide eviction moratorium lifts. The county is also funneling federal relief dollars for community support, HOME grants, legal aid and language access, among other urgent needs related to the pandemic.

    In other priorities, the county is focused on issues of homelessness, supporting addiction recovery and mental health, addressing a steep rise in violent crime since 2020 and a variety of public safety issues, including following recent state legislation on policing, developing an officer wellness program, standing up a hate crimes hotline and successful recruiting. In Bellevue, the county has made investments in the development of cross-cultural programming, youth and sports programs, housing and human services programs and business support. 

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

    Bellevue’s water supply

    Later, councilmembers received a presentation from Cascade Water Alliance (Cascade) on its water supply planning. Cascade supplies water to 380,000 people and 20,000 businesses located in Bellevue and six other member jurisdictions via contracts with Seattle and Tacoma. These contracts ensure sufficient water will be available to meet Cascade member needs through 2040.
     
    In the 1990s, water demand was forecasted to increase as the population grew. A plan was developed to explore using the Lake Tapps Reservoir (near Bonny Lake) for the water needs of Cascade members in the future. Cascade’s water demand forecast has flattened significantly in the past decade and there is ample regional water supply through 2060. 
     
    Cascade summarized options and a proposed funding strategy to secure a permanent source of water supply for its members over the long term. The plan is to construct a water treatment plant and transmission pipeline from Lake Tapps to Cascade members in the future. The future costs to implement the options range from $1.5 to $3.0 billion. Bellevue buys about half of Cascade’s water supply and therefore would pay about half these costs. 
     
    With the goal of ensuring stable and predictable rate increases to accomplish Cascade’s long-term water supply needs, a Water Supply Development Fund (WSDF) is proposed to accumulate cash in reserve in advance of the potential future Lake Tapps water supply project. Cascade anticipates its member rates, including WSDF funding, will increase each year by 2.2% between 2022-2025, 3% between 2026-2028, and 4% in 2029.
     
    Council directed Bellevue staff to further analyze the options, including impacts to water rates, and make a recommendation at a future council meeting that provides the best value for the city’s residents.