Murray proposes Seattle Housing Levy for August ballot

Building on over 30 years of success, today Mayor Ed Murray delivered his proposal to City Council to replace and expand the Seattle Housing Levy in 2016. His $290 million proposal follows three months of stakeholder and community engagement to discuss the levy and hear what the community’s priorities are for this affordable housing resource.

“Expanding the Housing Levy is the most important thing we will do this year to support affordability in Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “The levy is a powerful resource to build more affordable homes for low-income families and help people at risk for falling into homelessness. We value an equitable and diverse city and we will renew our commitment to affordable housing.”

The Mayor is recommending the Housing Levy be placed on the August ballot.

The City Council has created a select committee, chaired by Councilmember Tim Burgess, to consider the Mayor’s proposal. A public hearing on the proposal will take place at City Hall on April 4, 2016 at 5:30 p.m.

Responding to a broad range of affordability needs in Seattle, Mayor Murray’s 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; $42 million operating funding): The levy proposal will produce and preserve at least 2,150 apartments; each will be affordable to low-income families and individuals for at least 50 years. The capital funds will also support reinvestment in 350 existing affordable apartments. The proposal also provides operating funds to supplement tenant-paid rent in 510 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 ($9.5 million): The levy proposal will help 100 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.

At least 60 percent of the combined Rental Production and Preservation and Operating and Maintenance funds ($145.8 million) will serve our most vulnerable neighbors, those who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who earn no more than 30 percent of area median income ($21,550 for a two-person household). 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 ($43,020 for a two-person household).

The 7-year measure will cost the owner of a median value home in Seattle ($480,000) $122 per year. The current Housing Levy, which will expire at the end of the year, costs a median value homeowner $61 per year.

“People in Seattle have shown strong support for affordable housing over the last 35 years and our recent community outreach shows that this is still a strong value in our community,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “The Mayor’s proposal aligns with what we heard, that the Housing Levy should prioritize helping those most in need.”

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 fund the construction and preservation of affordable housing.

“The Housing Levy is a unique and proven tool that works,” stated Marty Kooistra, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium. “Seattle has a dedicated affordable housing development community that has a track record of making sound use of public and private resources to make our city more equitable.”

To date, the Seattle Housing Levy has funded over 12,500 affordable apartments throughout the city, helped 800 families purchase their first home, and provided emergency rent assistance to 6,500 families. Every housing levy has met and exceeded its goals.

“For Seattle to live out its values of inclusion and racial equity, we must renew and expand the Seattle Housing Levy so that our city does not leave out the most vulnerable population, those with low incomes and people of color,” stated Rebecca Saldaña, executive director of Puget Sound Sage. “Everyone should have the opportunity to call Seattle home.”

“Investing in supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness is critical,” stated Paul Lambros, director of Plymouth Housing Group. “Increasing the Housing Levy builds on a proven track record of getting people off the streets and into stable housing.”

“The Housing Levy continues to be our best resource for providing affordable housing for the lowest income individuals and families in our city,” stated Faith Pettis, co-chair of the Housing Affordability and Livability Committee. “Expanding the Levy is a critical part of creating 20,000 new affordable homes in the next 10 years.”

“Seattle has had a long tradition of generously investing in housing by supporting housing levies over the past three decades,” stated Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association. “Particularly with our current growth, we must continue to ensure that we have adequate housing options for people at the lowest income brackets.”

More information on the Seattle Housing Levy is available at www.seattle.gov/housing/levy.