Seattle mayor approves $970M levy to fund affordable housing projects

Mar 31, 2023, 9:00 PM | Updated: Apr 2, 2023, 7:51 am

staffing housing...

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a housing levy plan that would increase affordable housing options to address the homelessness crisis.(Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a housing levy plan Thursday that would increase affordable housing options to address the homelessness crisis in the city. The levy would raise approximately $970 million.

The levy would cost the median Seattle homeowner, a home valued at $855,136 in city limits, around $383 a year. This money is expected to raise nearly $1 billion over the next seven years, which will be used to build 3,000 new rental units and homes into the market.

Homelessness increasing nationally, King County among the worst

Mayor Harrell delivered remarks at the Housing Development Consortium’s 35th Annual Celebration, held at the Seattle Convention Center, with more than 800 affordable housing developers, operators, funders, and community partners in attendance.

Harrell told the gathering of housing developers this one is nearly three times higher than the levy passed by voters in 2016, which expires at the end of this year.

“The Housing Levy is a proven solution for delivering thousands of affordable housing options,” said Mayor Harrell. “Rooted in our One Seattle values that everyone should have a safe place to call home, this plan invests to meet the scale of the housing crisis, doing more than ever to prevent homelessness.”

Washington state ranks second in the country for most unhoused people per capita, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. King County has among the highest per capita homeless populations, ranking second in the country.

By the end of 2022, the department counted 25,211 unhoused people in the state, around 13,000 of which are in King County. The population of unhoused people in the state has increased by more than 2,000 since 2020, indicating that the problem is only worsening.

The mayor also said the money would be spent on wage stabilization to help people who work in Seattle live in the city. The mayor said this proposal would do more than any previous levy to support and maintain affordable housing in Seattle.

At least 60% of rental housing funds will help families or low-income individuals earn up to 30% of median income, according to the plan, with the remaining money going towards the production of “permanently affordable” housing projects around the city.

The Seattle City Council established the Select Committee on the 2023 Housing Levy in February, which is working on reviewing the mayor’s proposal and will make the final call on whether or not to send said proposal to a city-wide referendum to be considered by Seattle voters.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda will serve as chair, while Councilmember Lisa Herbold will be its vice chair.

Economist sees mixed Seattle housing market with inventory decreasing

“This Housing Levy renewal package is an investment in the health and resilience of our entire community,” Mosqueda said about the proposal. “It’s an investment in the workers who lay the foundation for these homes, the providers of critical housing support services for our most vulnerable neighbors, the community organizations that transform these new homes into community and cultural hubs, as well as the families, seniors, and individuals who find stability and sanctuary in these new places to live. This levy will make our whole city stronger.”

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Seattle mayor approves $970M levy to fund affordable housing projects