Continuing a 35-year history of public investment in affordable housing, today Mayor Ed Murray announced his proposal to replace and expand the expiring Seattle Housing Levy with a new 7-year ballot measure that would invest $290 million to preserve and produce affordable housing. The Mayor is seeking public input on the initial proposal and will transmit a recommendation to City Council in early March.
“Expanding the Housing Levy is the most important thing we will do this year to support affordability in Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “We know what works – build more affordable homes for low-income families, preserve the affordable housing we have, and keep people from falling into homelessness – and we must renew our commitment and expand the levy so we can do even more.”
Responding to a broad range of affordability needs in Seattle, Mayor Murray’s initial 2016 Housing Levy proposal will produce affordable housing for seniors, people with disabilities, low-wage workers, and people experiencing homelessness. The Levy also provides funding for homelessness prevention and homeownership assistance. The program areas include:
- Rental Production and Preservation ($201 million capital funding; $39 million operating funding): The Levy proposal will produce and preserve 2,150 apartments affordable for at least 50 years, and reinvest in 350 existing affordable apartments. The proposal also provides operating funds to supplement tenant-paid rent in 475 apartments serving extremely low-income residents.
- Homelessness Prevention ($11.5 million): The Levy proposal will provide short-term rent assistance and stability services for 4,500 families that are at imminent risk of eviction and homelessness.
- Homeownership ($12.5 million): The Levy proposal will help 200 current low-income homeowners stay in their homes, and help 180 first-time homebuyers with limited income find a stable and affordable home for their family.
Mayor Murray is committing 60 percent of Rental Production and Preservation funds ($144 million) to serve those who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who earn no more than 30 percent of area median income ($24,250 for a family of three). The remainder of the Rental Production and Preservation funds will be dedicated to serving lower-wage workers who earn less than 60 percent of area median income ($48,420 for a family of three).
The expanded 2016 Housing Levy will increase property taxes by $61 a year on a Seattle home with an assessed value of $480,000.
“Since the early 1980s, Seattle has led the country in making direct investments in public-private partnerships for affordable housing,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess, chair of the Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee. “The Housing Levy allows us to extend the value of City funding of construction and preservation projects by leveraging other sources of money, including state and federal funds. The Council will thoroughly review the Mayor’s proposal.”
“The Housing Levy is our most important resource for meeting the housing needs of the most vulnerable people in our community, including seniors and others on fixed incomes, and families and individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Mayor Murray. “Our levy will leverage other county, state and federal investments to support 1,200 new homes for people for Seattle’s lowest-income families.”
In 1981, Seattle voters were the first in the nation to approve a property tax ballot measure to support affordable housing with the passage of the Senior Housing Bond. In 1986, 1995, 2002 and 2009, voters have approved the Seattle Housing Levy, each time renewing and expanding the commitment to build and preserve affordable housing.
Since its inception, the Housing Levy has created over 12,500 affordable apartments throughout the city, helped 800 families purchase their first home, and provided emergency rent assistance to 6,500 families. Each of the four Housing Levies, and one bond measure, have met and exceeded their goals.
“For 35 years, people in Seattle have invested in affordable housing to preserve the diversity and affordability of our city,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “We have learned what works, how to leverage our resources to have the greatest impact, and how to remain adaptable to the changing needs of our city. In partnership with strong community organizations, we will continue to build on this legacy of success.”
“Expanding affordable housing stock is critical for the escalating number of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle,” said Executive Director of Compass Housing Alliance Janet Pope. “As providers of homeless services, we can have great success in helping our clients address their personal barriers to housing, only to find we have absolutely no place for them to go. This levy must pass. It is a cost-effective smart solution that ensures we remain a place of opportunity for all–a city that values the safety and stability of those who are most vulnerable among us.”
“I worked low-income jobs in Seattle for more than 30 years and I had very few options if I was going to stay in Seattle in my retirement,” said Al Korpela, who lives in an affordable building for seniors on Capitol Hill. “The Seattle Housing Levy supported the purchase and preservation of my building, saving me and other seniors from displacement. Because of the levy, I can stay in my neighborhood, access the supports I need to lead a rich life, and enjoy the culture of the city throughout my retirement.”
With the release of this initial Housing Levy proposal, the Mayor will be seeking input from the community before he submits his proposed ballot measure to the City Council in March. Throughout February, the City will hold community conversations to provide information about the Levy, explain the Mayor’s proposal, and offer an opportunity for people to share their thoughts on their priorities for affordable housing investments. Comments can also be submitted online at www.seattle.gov/housing/levy. The conversations include:
- West Seattle: Feb 3, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) with Southwest District Council
- East Seattle: Feb 18, 6:00 – 8:00 pm at 12th Ave Arts (1620 12th Ave), with Capitol Hill Community Council and Capitol Hill Housing
- North Seattle: Feb 20, 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Lamb of God Church, 12509 27th Ave NE with Lake City Neighborhood Association
- Central Seattle: February 24, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at IDEA Space (409 Maynard Ave S) with SCIDpda, Interim CDA, and CIDBIA
- South Seattle: 25, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at New Holly Gathering Hall (7054 32nd Ave S) with SouthCORE, Southeast District Council, and Greater Duwamish District Council