$290 million is the sum Mayor Ed Murray wants to raise through a new Seattle Housing Levy.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Wednesday proposed a new property-tax levy for affordable housing that would raise $290 million over seven years. That’s double the size of the existing Seattle Housing Levy, which expires at the end of this year.
“There’s a lot of fear right now in this city about whether folks can afford to live in this city,” Murray said at a news conference. “There’s a lot of fear in this city about the growing crisis of homelessness. But I think this is not a time to be afraid. I think this is a time to step up and do what Seattle does and do something about these issues.”
The new levy would cost the owner of a Seattle home worth $480,000 about $122 per year, a $61-per-year increase over the existing levy, according to the mayor.
Community groups and the city are hosting public forums for people to learn more about the mayor’s proposal.
• East Seattle: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 18 at 12th Avenue Arts, 162012th Ave.
• North Seattle: 9:30-11:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at Lamb of God Church, 12509 27th Ave. N.E.
• Central Seattle: 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at IDEA Space, 409 Maynard Ave. S.
• South Seattle: 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave. S.
Source: City of Seattle
Murray will send his ballot-measure proposal to the City Council next month, he said. This month, officials will host community conversations across the city.
The council will begin discussing the proposal in March, hold a public hearing in April and in May decide which ballot to put the measure on — the primary election in August or the general election in November, Councilmember Tim Burgess said.
The mayor announced his proposal at Compass on Dexter, a new South Lake Union building for formerly homeless and low-income men, women and children built, in part, with $4.1 million from the $145 million levy approved by Seattle voters in 2009.
Some residents work at local businesses such as the Whole Foods and QFC supermarkets within walking distance of Compass on Dexter, said Janet Pope, executive director of Compass Housing Alliance, which developed the building.
“If it weren’t for this building, they’d be living in Auburn or Kent or Marysville,” Pope said, arguing the Seattle Housing Levy helps people who work in the city live nearby.
Murray signaled his intentions last year when he adopted 65 strategies recommended by his citizen task force, the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee, including a new levy double the size of the existing one.
The mayor made his position clear again last week during a televised speech about the city’s response to homelessness, saying he would seek to double the existing levy.
“Perhaps as a city, there is nothing more important that we can do this year than pass this levy,” Murray said in the speech.
Seattle voters have approved four affordable-housing levies: $50 million in 1986, $59 million in 1995, $86 million in 2002 and $145 million in 2009.
The levies have together helped fund more than 12,500 affordable apartments for seniors, low- and moderate-income workers and formerly homeless people, according to the Office of Housing. The levies also have provided down-payment loans to more than 800 first-time homebuyers and rental assistance to more than 6,500 households.
Murray on Wednesday said the new levy would use $240 million to produce and preserve 2,150 apartments affordable for at least 50 years, make improvements to 350 units and provide rental assistance to 475 very low-income households.
The levy would use $11.5 million to provide rental assistance and other services to 4,500 families at risk of becoming homeless, and it would use $12.5 million to help 200 low-income households remain in their homes and 180 become first-time homebuyers.
Beatrice Holvert, a lifelong Seattle resident who recently received rental assistance after her work hours were cut, spoke at Murray’s news conference. She said the existing levy kept her and the granddaughter she’s raising from being homeless.
“I just want this levy to pass because I know there are other people out there in need,” Holvert said.
Seattle property owners are paying a record $228.5 million through city levies and the Seattle Park District this year.
The owner of a $480,000 home in Seattle is paying about $5,000 in property taxes this year, with about 30 percent of that going to the city.