Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien floated a “trial balloon” Friday for adding as much as $28 million to the mayor’s $290 million housing-levy proposal.
Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is suggesting the council consider increasing Mayor Ed Murray’s $290 million housing-levy proposal by up to $28 million.
The mayor’s proposal for the August or November ballot already is double the size of the city’s existing affordable-housing levy, which expires at the end of 2016.
Making the levy even larger would be “a big question,” O’Brien acknowledged during a council meeting Friday about potential changes to Murray’s proposal.
“I’m sensitive to that,” the council member said. “I’m circulating this just as an option that we consider … This is a trial balloon that I’m floating out there.”
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Councilmember Tim Burgess immediately sought to puncture O’Brien’s balloon, saying he wouldn’t support any proposal above $290 million over seven years.
“Colleagues, I would remind you that the mayor’s proposal is a 100 percent increase in the levy that will expire at the end of this year,” Burgess said. “I do not favor exceeding that number.”
O’Brien laid out two scenarios: Increase the mayor’s proposal by $14 million — an additional 50 cents per month for the owner of a home worth $480,000 — or raise it by $28 million through an additional $1 per month.
The money would build more supportive-housing units for people leaving homelessness and provide more rental assistance for people at risk of becoming homeless.
The $14 million boost would build 46 units of supportive housing and help 852 people with rent, while the $28 million addition would build 90 units and help 1,906 people, according to O’Brien.
Supportive housing is expensive but can save the city money in the long run by reducing costs related to such services as shelters, emergency-room care and police, he said, noting Seattle’s homelessness crisis.
Like Burgess, Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and M. Lorena González expressed reservations about asking voters to approve a levy larger than $290 million.
“I recognize the need here,” Herbold said. “But I also believe that we make our best decisions with the help of the public.”
She added, “So public, if there’s a ground swell of support for increasing the levy, we’d love to hear from you.”
Under the mayor’s proposal, the levy would create up to 810 units of supportive housing.
González said she might be interested in reallocating some of the $290 million in Murray’s proposal to create more.