I am pleased to announce that today after 7 committee meetings the Seattle City Council took action unanimously passing the proposed Seattle Housing Levy. This proposal will now appear on the August ballot for voters to consider.
In 2009, the voters of Seattle passed a Housing levy to set aside property taxes to pay for affordable housing. That program brought us about 2,184 new homes, provided rental assistance and homeless prevention services to 2,442 households, and helped 187 households purchase their first homes. The program exceeded nearly all its goals, specifically producing 25% more new affordable homes than we thought possible, making the program a great success in its ability to stretch every dollar to the fullest potential.
The new proposed Housing Levy proposal seeks to create 2,150 new homes, provide services to prevent homelessness to 4,700 households and help an additional 380 households purchase their first homes.
I was proud to vote for this proposal and an accompanying resolution. Working with my colleagues I added language to the resolution directing the Office of Housing to ensure geographical diversity in the projects the levy funds. District 5 is a growing community. The neighborhoods of Northgate, Lake City and Bitter Lake will continue to grow and we must ensure we have affordable housing as part of that new development as well as services for homelessness prevention and homeownership. The new proposed Housing Levy would also, for the first time, include foreclosure prevention services. As a critical part of ensuring that we end homelessness we need to be sure that people are able to stay in their homes.
Throughout the council review process I advocated for a ways to keep people in their homes. The best way to end homelessness is to stop it from happening. I have heard from several elders in our community who are concerned that they won’t be able to stay in their homes with the continuing rise in property taxes while they are trying to live on fixed incomes. There are opportunities for tax exemption and deferment if you are a senior with a low income, a disability or widow/widower of a deceased veteran.
I wanted to have programs like these integrated in the work of the Housing Levy. As a result several city departments have identified ways that they can improve education and access to these programs. They have committed to better training and resource management; including finding more places to link to the information on their websites and pass along the information to those who are interested. We want to make sure that we are not only supporting those most in need but that we are also not pushing our neighbors over the edge. Everyone deserves a home.
I want to see our communities prosper together.
I appreciate the opportunity to share this update with you. For more information on property tax exemptions and referrals please go here: http://dor.wa.gov/content/findtaxesandrates/propertytax/incentiveprograms.aspx