SEATTLE — Homeless advocates are wondering why they aren't yet seeing more tiny house villages in operation in Seattle.
Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis announced a campaign in January to double the number of tiny homes in the city. There are currently about 294 tiny homes in Seattle. The goal is nearly 800 tiny homes in 20 villages.
So far, Lewis said they have raised $2.5 million from private donors for the campaign, but said Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requirements have been the biggest hurdle.
“Due to frankly a lot of unnecessary things that temporary villages should not be subjected to in terms of needing to complete arduous, lengthy and red tape-filled environmental reviews that are really designed for structures that are going to be permanent," said Lewis.
Lisa Power is the co-chair of the nonprofit community development organization "Uptown Alliance,” which serves Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood. Through Power's many groups, including "Tidy Uptown," she is in constant contact with the unsheltered community.
Power said she has also taken notice of the homeless encampments that have formed throughout the city.
"What's going on right now isn't humane for anybody,” said Power. “There's a public safety issue, public health issue for everybody involved.”
Power said one of her unsheltered neighbors was placed in a tiny house last week. It is an option she hears many unsheltered individuals would like for themselves.
"We're definitely working on trying to get our neighbors into shelter and get them off the street, out of tents, you know? Give them a locked door and, you know, a better living situation," explained Power.
Lewis said he's been working with the Seattle mayor's office, City Council and the Human Services Department to find a solution.
"We have over 3,700 people experiencing homelessness in the city of Seattle who are unsheltered, who are living in doorways, who are living under bridges, in tents, in vehicles," said Lewis.
Lewis said SEPA requirements mean the city can only move as fast as the state allows.
"We've been working with the mayor's office and Olympia to try to get those things changed, either through changes in state law through the legislature or through an order from the governor,” Lewis said.
Lewis encourages reaching out to the Seattle City Council, the mayor's office and Olympia to get the ball rolling.
"Together we can get it done, and [no] problem is above our collective ability to come together as a city and really work for good outcomes," he said.