Property taxes would rise over seven years under a new, $290 million housing levy for affordable housing on the August primary-election ballot.
Seattle voters will see a new, $290 million housing levy on their Aug. 2 primary-election ballot.
Over seven years, the property-tax measure for affordable housing would raise twice as much as the existing housing levy, which expires this year.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to put Mayor Ed Murray’s proposal to a vote this summer after making some minor changes to how the money would be spent.
“This would be the single largest investment in affordable housing that we’ve ever made as a city,” Councilmember Tim Burgess said before supporting the measure.
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The council included an amendment that would allow the levy to help landlords make building improvements in exchange for capping rents on some of their apartments.
It also authorized up to $30 million in short-term loans to help nonprofit developers buy apartment buildings with reasonable rents and keep them affordable. Finally, the council earmarked $1.75 million in interest earnings for homelessness prevention.
Council members Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien said the changes are meant to keep longtime Seattle residents from being pushed out of the city due to rising rents.
“It pains me when my friends say, very simply, ‘I can’t afford to live in this city any more,’ ” Council President Bruce Harrell said, addressing the displacement issue.
Last month, O’Brien suggested the council consider hiking Murray’s proposal by up to $28 million in order to build more supportive-housing units for people leaving homelessness and provide more rent assistance for people on the brink of becoming homeless. He said the increase could save money in the long run by reducing costs related to services such as homeless shelters and emergency-room care.
But his trial balloon deflated when other council members said they didn’t want to ask for more than $290 million, which would cost the owner of a Seattle home worth $480,000 about $122 per year, a $61 annual increase over the existing housing levy.
When the mayor unveiled his proposal in March, he said it would build and preserve 2,150 affordable apartments, pay for improvements to 350 affordable apartments and help with operating expenses for 475 apartments serving very low-income households.
The levy would also provide short-term rent assistance and other services to 4,500 families in danger of becoming homeless, allow 200 low-income homeowners to hold onto their homes and help 180 people become first-time homebuyers, Murray said.
Burgess on Monday said past housing levies have met their targets for the number of apartments they were supposed to build and families they were supposed to help.
Doubling the levy was one of 65 strategies the mayor adopted last summer after they were recommended by his Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee.