Doubled low-income housing levy to go on Seattle ballot in August | KUOW News and Information

Doubled low-income housing levy to go on Seattle ballot in August

May 2, 2016

This summer, Seattle voters will be asked to make property in the city a little less affordable to make housing for the poorest Seattleites more affordable.

On Monday, Seattle City Council unanimously approved putting a housing levy on the Aug. 2 primary ballot.

Most of the money from Mayor Ed Murray's proposed $290 million levy would go to funding 2,500 low-income apartments. Most of the apartments would be reserved for people making less than 30 percent of the typical Seattle income (about $19,000 for a single person or $24,000 for a family of three).

The levy would also double the rate that property owners pay to support low-income housing. The typical Seattle homeowner would pay $122 a year for the next seven years, up from $61 a year under the current levy.

Read: Seattle has been quietly building affordable housing in your neighborhood

City Council members said the levy won't solve the city's housing crisis, but they called it a good start.

"For someone that's been in this city a long time, it pains me when my friends say, very simply, I can't afford to live in this city any more," council president Bruce Harrell said. "This is an investment to ask the voters to recognize that we want to keep the diversity in this city as much as we can."

Little opposition has surfaced to the proposal, unlike some of Murray's other proposals to make housing more affordable in a city of rapidly rising housing rents and sale prices.

Roger Valdez, with the developer-backed group Smart Growth Seattle, has opposed proposals to require developers to build more units of affordable housing. He said he supports the levy, though he wishes it focused more on putting money in poor people's hands and less on the expensive approach of building new housing. He said the levy fairly distributes the burden of helping everyone in the city keep a roof over their heads.

"A single family owner that is on a huge lot in Laurelhurst is going to pay a lot more than a renter in Belltown, for example," Valdez said.

Seattle voters have approved a housing levy every seven years since 1986.