In one of the nation’s most expensive markets, Seattle is taking significant steps to address its housing crisis. With the city grappling with a shortage of nearly 30,000 affordable units and more than 13,000 people experiencing homelessness, the need for affordable housing solutions has never been more critical. As reported by Bloomberg, Seattle voters are set to approve a ballot measure that will triple the supplemental property tax to fund programs supporting affordable housing.
The proposed higher levy, an extension of an existing one, could potentially generate up to $970 million over the span of seven years. This funding will be directed towards building affordable housing units and providing essential support for low-income renters in the city.
Understanding Seattle’s Housing Crisis
Seattle’s housing crisis is a multifaceted challenge driven by geographic constraints, rapid population growth fueled by the tech industry, and a history of restrictive zoning regulations. The city has long grappled with these issues, and the existing levy, in place for over 35 years, plays a pivotal role in supporting the construction and maintenance of subsidized housing units for sale and rent, along with programs designed to assist individuals experiencing long-term homelessness.
Strong Support and Expected Approval
The ballot measure enjoys strong support, with backing from nearly 100 local and national organizations, including labor unions, the city’s chamber of commerce, and Amazon.com Inc., the city’s largest employer. In 2016, the current levy received over 70% of the vote, indicating widespread community support.
Kylie Rolf of the Downtown Seattle Association emphasizes that Seattle voters understand the interplay between affordability, quality of life, accessible transit options, and the economic impact that these factors bring to the city and the wider region.
Combining Funding Sources
The additional tax is not intended to be the sole solution. According to Denise Rodriguez, a member of the levy’s oversight committee, it is designed to complement other initiatives and programs. New state laws and city efforts are also expected to alleviate restrictive zoning.
Developers often combine multiple funding sources to support affordable housing projects, creating a layered approach. As Rodriguez notes, if any single funding source were to disappear, it could jeopardize the entire initiative.
Habitat for Humanity’s Role
Habitat for Humanity is one of the supporters of the measure, planning to apply for housing-levy funds to construct over 200 units in Seattle over the next five years. Ryan Donohue, Habitat’s Chief Advocacy Officer for the region, emphasizes that the rate increase is necessary, particularly due to the rising construction costs compared to when the measure was last authorized.
As Donohue underscores, the increased investment is vital if the goal is to expand services and provide much-needed relief in Seattle’s housing crisis.