In the midst of Seattle’s homelessness emergency, Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council are looking to expand one of the most successful mechanisms for funding affordable housing the city has ever known.
Since 1981, Seattle has used bonds and levies to fund:
- over 12,500 affordable apartments for seniors, low- and moderate-wage workers, and formerly homeless individuals and families
- home ownership assistance for more than 800 first-time low-income home buyers
- emergency rental assistance to more than 6,500 households
The 2009 Seattle Housing Levy raised $145 million over seven years. It expires at the end of 2016. Murray has proposed renewing and expanding the levy to provide $290 million over the next seven years for affordable housing. City Council unanimously approved this proposal with a few minor changes and sent it to the August ballot. If approved, this will be the 5th Housing Levy approved by Seattle voters.
Solid Ground (then the Fremont Public Association) has historically taken a leadership role in the housing levies. In 1986 our then Executive Director Frank Chopp co-initiated and organized the successful “Citizens for a Better Seattle” campaign that married a $50 million Seattle Housing Levy and a $25 million Art Museum Levy.
Now, Solid Ground’s Board of Directors has endorsed the 2016 levy expansion and renewal, called YES! for homes. I have agreed to serve as one of several Co-Chairs of the Levy Campaign Steering Committee. Our role is to publicly demonstrate support for the Levy and to advocate with our networks and sectors for its passage.
Passage of YES! for homes is critical to the goal of making Seattle an affordable city where all can have a home, and to making homelessness rare, brief and one-time. If approved, the Levy will generate $290 million over seven years and provide funding to produce and preserve affordable rental housing; preserve affordable housing including loans for acquisition and rental rehabilitation; assist low-income homeowners and first-time home purchasers; and support homelessness prevention, including rent assistance and stability services.
The 2016 Levy would invest:
- $243 million in the preservation and production of affordable rental units, with 60% of these funds focused on families and individuals living at 30% AMI or below
- $11.5 million in homelessness prevention
- $9.5 million in assistance to low-income homeowners and homebuyers
City Council included provisions to help landlords make building improvements in exchange for capping rents on some of their apartments. It also authorized up to $30 million in short-term loans to help nonprofit developers buy apartment buildings with reasonable rents and keep them affordable. Finally, the council earmarked $1.75 million in interest earnings for homelessness prevention.
The Seattle Housing Levy has contributed about $6 million to Solid Ground to help build 100 apartments and townhomes on our Sand Point Housing campus for formerly homeless families and single adults with incomes of 30% and below the Area Mean Income.
The City’s one-pager detailing the new Housing Levy offers more information.
Featured image: Our Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place is comprised of 39 apartments for formerly homeless people on our Sand Point Housing campus. The building was funded in part by Seattle Housing Levy funds.