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King County Executive proposes bonding $100 million for affordable housing

This follows $87 million from 2016

A scattering of tents are visible under a curvy freeway bridge, leading to a dense urban center full of skyscrapers. EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock

Wednesday, the King County Executive’s office announced a plan to bond against future lodging tax revenues to generate $100 million for affordable housing. Legislation, which is still being drafted, will be sent to the King County Council for consideration.

While the plan isn’t finalized, it’s similar to a 2016 plan that bonded $87 million for affordable housing. That revenue, proposed by Executive Dow Constantine and approved by the King County Council, was bonded against the same tax on hotel and motel stays.

The $87 million is projected to fund around 1,700 new and preserved affordable homes, according to the executive’s office, although the number could vary depending on how affordable they’re are and where they’re going to be built. So far, around 1,041 of those have been preserved or will be built in the next couple of years.

The new, $100 million plan would focus on a broad range of affordable housing, from 30 to 80 percent area median income (AMI), but would likely focus on 30 to 60 percent AMI—so it wouldn’t provide assistance for the lowest-income people in King County.

The lodging tax that the revenue is bonding against was initially implemented to pay off Centurylink Field.

The announcement was made as part of a progress report for One Table, a regional task force led by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, and King County Executive Dow Constantine. The announcement primarily announced actions that are already underway in each jurisdiction. A section on Seattle’s progress, for example, touted a measure passed by City Council back in February and some current affordable housing projects—although the One Table effort was cited by some opponents of a recently repealed employee hours tax, including the Washington Retail Association, as an alternate means to address homelessness.

In a statement distributed with the report, Durkan said “In the coming weeks,” she and Backus would be “working together to convene mayors in our region to discuss additional solutions.”

Constantine’s office announced two new projects, though: the hotel tax and tapping to remaining revenues from a sales tax that goes toward treating mental illness and drug dependency. The remaining funds will be used for peer respite care, medication to treat opioid addiction, and a pilot program that will come to people’s homes or the shelter where they’re staying to provide behavioral health care. It will also expand the LEAD program—Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion—to more cities.

This article has been updated to include the proposed AMI ranges for the new units.