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Seattle councilmembers, mayor clash over North Precinct reallocation for affordable housing

Lines are being drawn in this budget battle

Last week, we learned that Seattle City Councilperson Lisa Herbold is pushing a proposal to reallocate $29 million from the controversial North Precinct police station into affordable housing for the city. The plan calls for a $29 million bond for affordable home construction and development that would be repaid by the Department of Transportation, which itself would be repaid by real estate excise tax (REET).

The whole thing is a bit of a workaround because REET can’t be used to pay for affordable housing directly. The plan is seen as a boon for Seattle affordable housing champions as well as those who felt that the North Precinct, with it’s yoga room and boulder displays, was a wasteful project.

Two people who disagree with that assessment are Seattle mayor Ed Murray and Seattle city councilperson Tim Burgess, who chairs the council’s budget committee. Now the two sides are getting ready to go head-to-head in a battle over budgets.

Herbold’s plan, which is backed by fellow Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, M. Lorena González, Rob Johnson, Mike O’Brien, and Kshama Sawant, could reportedly create 198 or 270 units of affordable housing, depending on the scenario.The city would then pay the bond debt back in 2017 and 2018 by taking away funding from the North Precinct police station.

The opposition says that the city is already using other strategies, such as the recently-passed housing levy, that don’t involve borrowing money. Mayor Murray says there are other solutions, such as upzoning, that can accomplish the same goals without draining the police project. Plus they feel that replacing or improving the North Precinct station is critical as the city hires more officers and expands.

Herbold has said that she’s not opposed to the North Precinct station, just the high cost.

Expect to hear a lot more about this showdown in the coming weeks...