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Mayor Proposes Doubling Seattle Housing Levy as Homelessness Crisis Grows

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Photo: Mitchel Haindfield

What are we going to do about the homeless crisis? It seems to be the question on everyone's mind around Seattle right now. From the recent murders in Beacon Hill's "Jungle," to the creation of "safe lots" for people living in RVs to NIMBY showdowns to one Ballard business owner literally flooding areas to keep homeless people out, the issue has hit a boiling point and the number of people forced to live on the streets is only getting bigger. Seattle mayor Ed Murray has talked big about how critical things are for the city and his first big budgetary move to help change the situation has come in the form of a proposal to double the size of the existing Seattle Housing Levy.

The proper tax, which benefits the creation of more affordable housing, would then raise $290 million over seven years. Not adjusted for inflation, the current levy, which expires at the end of this year, will bring in $145 million. The four levies that voters have previously-approved ($50 million in 1986, $59 million in 1995, $86 million in 2002 and $145 million in 2009) have helped to create over 12,500 affordable apartments, help provide down-payment loans to over 800 first-time homebuyers and provide rental assistance to over 6,500 households.

The mayor said in a statement Wednesday that the new levy would put $240 million towards creating 2,150 apartments affordable for the next 50 years as well as improving 350 units and providing rental assistance to 475 low-income households.

Working against the mayor is the current number of levies that Seattle taxpayers are already paying for. Seattle property owners paid out $228.5 million in city levies this year alone. Per a Seattle Times example, a homeowner with a median price home ($480,000) paid $5,000 in property taxes this year and would add another $122 per year to that total under the new levy. While that may seem like a small price to pay to help improve the city's housing crisis, many are sure to balk at the idea of any new levies or taxes.

The proposal now goes to the City Council, who will hold public hearings in April and May before deciding whether or not the levy either goes on the primary election ballot in August or the general election ballot in November.
· Mayor proposes doubling size of Seattle Housing Levy [ST]
· Seattle's homeless emergency: What do we really know? [CC]
· 'A Failure of Humanity': Ballard Business Pours Water on Homeless People's Possessions [SW]
· Why Seattle must tame "The Jungle" [CC]
· Seattle 'safe lots' to hold homeless living in vehicles [ST]
· NIMBYs Keep At It In Fight vs. Interbay Homeless Camp [CS]
· Seattle-area count finds 'huge spike' in homelessness [ST]