Washington State Standard: What advocacy groups want from lawmakers in 2024

As we approach the dawn of 2024, local advocacy groups are raising their voices to encourage lawmakers to address crucial issues, with a spotlight on affordable housing. We are among these advocates, continuing to push for more accessible housing solutions.

We continue to emphasize the need for significant investments in affordable housing across the board. Our vision encompasses various types of housing, emphasizing not only rental units but also opportunities for homeownership. As the cost of living continues to rise, Habitat for Humanity is calling on the Legislature to take bold steps in ensuring affordable homeownership remains within reach for many.

A key focus of our advocacy mission is the preservation and expansion of Black homeownership. We are urging lawmakers to allocate resources for down payment assistance and property tax relief specifically designed to support and enhance Black homeownership. Recognizing the disparities that exist, we aim to contribute to closing the gap and fostering more inclusive communities.

We are also pushing for practical measures to streamline affordable housing projects through quicker permitting processes and lower fees to provide cities and counties with more opportunities to facilitate affordable housing initiatives. By reducing bureaucratic hurdles, these changes could catalyze the development of more affordable housing units, addressing the pressing need for accessible living spaces.

This call to action aligns with a broader movement striving for positive change in housing policies. For those interested in delving deeper into the advocacy efforts shaping the landscape, a recent story from the Washington State Standard explores what various advocacy groups, including Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties, are seeking from lawmakers in 2024. Click the link to read the Washington State Standard story.

As we move forward, it’s evident that the collective push for affordable housing is gaining momentum. Habitat for Humanity and similar groups are at the forefront, urging lawmakers to embrace transformative policies that can reshape the future of housing accessibility. Stay tuned as we navigate the evolving landscape of advocacy, working towards a more inclusive and affordable housing future for all.

Bloomberg: Seattle Weighs Tripling Property Levy to Ease Crisis

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.

Read the full Bloomberg article here.

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.

Seattle Times: Seattle voters to decide on $970M levy to fund affordable housing

In a significant move to tackle Seattle’s housing crisis, voters are preparing to make a crucial decision on the city’s largest-ever property tax measure for affordable housing.

The latest iteration of the Seattle Housing Levy aims to raise an impressive $970 million over a span of seven years, which is more than triple the existing levy set to expire at the end of this year. Supporters of the levy assert that it represents a “critical investment” in the city’s housing stock, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the housing shortage.

Patience Malaba, a leader of the Yes for Homes campaign and the executive director of the Housing Development Consortium, underscores the gravity of the situation, stating, “We are in a deepening housing crisis that demands more tools at scale, and this levy rises to meet the moment.” However, not everyone is in unanimous agreement, as the levy also has prominent skeptics who advocate for alternative strategies to address the housing challenges facing Seattle.

Click the link to read the full Seattle Times article.

Axios: Seattle voters to decide on $970 million housing levy

In response to Seattle’s growing affordability challenge, voters in the city will soon make a crucial decision regarding Proposition No. 1, a new citywide housing levy. If approved, this levy is projected to generate approximately $970 million over the next seven years, primarily allocated to affordable housing projects and rental assistance. The stark reality is that Seattle is grappling with a shortage of approximately 21,000 affordable housing units, forcing many workers, long-term residents, and families to leave. Read the full Axios article here.

Mayor Bruce Harrell and groups like Habitat for Humanity are urging voters to pass the levy, citing the urgency of the city’s housing crisis. According to Ryan Donohue, Chief Advocacy Officer for Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King and Kittitas Counties told Axios, the levy will cost the average Seattle household roughly “the price of a large pumpkin spice latte every week.” As Cliff Cawthon, the group’s Advocacy and Policy Manager, puts it, that’s “a small price to pay to make sure our neighbors have a safe and affordable place to live.”

Proposition No. 1 aims to renew an expiring property tax levy that was last approved by voters in 2016. However, there’s a significant change in the tax rate, which will triple from $0.14 to $0.45 per $1,000 in assessed property value. For the owner of a median-value Seattle home, this translates to an estimated annual cost of $383, about $260 more per year than the expiring levy.

The impact of this levy is substantial. More than $700 million will be channeled into building and preserving approximately 3,500 units of affordable housing over seven years. An additional $30 million will be designated for short-term rental assistance and homelessness prevention, potentially assisting around 4,500 individuals. Furthermore, $50 million will be dedicated to supporting individuals in becoming homeowners through affordable home construction and down payment assistance, while $122 million is earmarked for permanent supportive housing. Overall, the levy could positively impact around 9,000 people, as estimated by city officials.

DJC: Another Housing Effort from Amazon

At Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties, we’re excited to share some incredible news that promises to make homeownership dreams a reality for many families in our region. Amazon, known for its commitment to housing equity, has launched a groundbreaking pilot program in partnership with the nonprofit National Housing Trust. This initiative aims to invest a staggering $40 million towards increasing homeownership opportunities, marking a significant expansion of Amazon’s $2 billion national Housing Equity Fund.

Amazon’s Remarkable Impact So Far

For the past two years, Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund has played a pivotal role in supporting and preserving hundreds of affordable rental units in our region, and an impressive 5,300 units nationwide. The positive impact on our community has been tangible and inspiring, but now, Amazon is taking its commitment to housing equity to the next level.

A New Frontier: Homeownership

With this new pilot program, Amazon is shifting its focus towards homeownership. Senthil Sankaran, a representative of the Housing Equity Fund, expressed, “This new initiative will allow us to explore ways to help more moderate-income households realize their dreams of homeownership and, in turn, help build wealth that can pass on to the next generation.” This shift in focus is a testament to Amazon’s dedication to addressing the housing challenges faced by families across the nation.

A Strong Partnership with Local Nonprofits

In our region, Amazon’s pilot program will collaborate with several outstanding nonprofits dedicated to affordable housing, including African Community Housing & Development, Homestead Community Land Trust, and, of course, Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties.

Habitat for Humanity is set to receive an undisclosed amount of fund money to assist 50 families in making down payments on their homes this year. But that’s not all – we have even more exciting news! Habitat for Humanity is planning to construct 240 new homes for the sales market, with the invaluable support of the pilot program.

What’s Next?

As we eagerly anticipate more details from our partners at African Community Housing & Development and Homestead Community Land Trust, we can’t help but feel a sense of optimism and hope. Together with Amazon and these esteemed nonprofits, we are taking crucial steps towards creating sustainable, affordable homeownership opportunities for families in our community.

This initiative is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when organizations and communities come together with a shared vision. We’re thrilled to be part of this transformative journey towards a future where everyone has a place to call home.

For more information on this exciting development, please read the full article in the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Stay tuned for updates as we continue working diligently to make homeownership dreams a reality for more families in Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties!