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On Other Blogs Today: Living Wages, Affordable Housing, Tax Loopholes, and More
Our daily roundup.
1. The Urban Land Institute has mapped out the number of rental units "affordable" (that is, costing no more than 30 percent of gross household income) to "Extremely Low-Income" households (those making less than 30 percent of the area median income) in every county across the country.
In King County, where the ELI income level is $26,400 for a family of four, there are just 29 available affordable rental units for every 100 extremely low-income households, of which there are currently around 82,000. That's exactly on track with the national average of 29 per 100.
The West Coast (represented in orange above) is a border-to-border swath of unaffordable housing. Somewhat surprisingly, the "worst" counties for affordable housing are concentrated in the South and Midwest—in places like Lee County, FL, Shelby County, TN (home of Memphis), and Cobb County, GA (suburban Atlanta).
The ULI plans to do similar maps in the future for very low-income and low-income households.
2. Seattle Transit Blog takes a look at the meeting materials for a recent open house on the proposed South Bellevue Link Light Rail station, located at the current South Bellevue Park-and-Ride, just north of I-90 on Bellevue Way SE. Depressingly (but not, as STB points out, surprisingly), the station includes parking for 1,500 vehicles, including this lovely surface lot:
Perhaps even more depressingly, in its project materials, Sound Transit takes pains to emphasize that the station will have (emphasis theirs) "No Transit Oriented Development"—a not-so-coded message to South Bellevue residents who oppose additional density near their single-family neighborhood.
3. The debate over a proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage in Seattle heated up this week at Slog, where Stranger editor Christopher Frizzelle wrote about a KPLU report in which Peter Aaron, the owner of Elliott Bay Books, said he'd be forced to lay at least five workers off if he had to pay $15 an hour.
Frizzelle argued that Aaron was "courageous" for speaking up about the potential "fatal" impact the higher minimum could have on small businesses like Elliott Bay.
Proponents of the $15 minimum, like Working Washington, argue that giving people more money to spend enables them to spend more money, boosting the economy.
Speaking specifically to the Slog post, Working Washington said: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, increasing wages boosts spending on books, where average spending on "reading" increases 26 percent (from $60 to $72 a year) as consumers move from making between $15,000 and $19,999 a year (a category that includes the current minimum wage) to making between $30,000 and $39,999 (a category that includes the $15 minimum).
Similarly, those in the former category spend an average of $1,188 a year at restaurants (another group of businesses that have complained that a higher minimum will do them in), while those in the latter group spend an average of $1,850 a year eating—a bump of 56 percent.
4. The Washington Budget and Policy Center's blog Schmudget (Yiddish for "budget") breaks down the state house and senate budgets' approach to tax loopholes. Not surprisingly, the Republican-dominated senate has produced a budget proposal that includes 18 new tax breaks, for a total cost of $119 million over the 2017-2019 biennium, including a new tax break for server farms, a new utility tax break for log haulers, and several new business and occupation tax credits.
The Democratic-dominated house, on the other hand, has proposed closing loopholes that would save the state $288 million over the same period, closing tax preferences for the new marijuana industry, eliminating a sales tax exemption on bottled water, and adding a controversial proposal to apply an existing tobacco tax to e-cigarettes.
As we noted in Fizz yesterday, Republicans in the senate have said they don't have time to take up big budgeting issues like closing tax loopholes. Yet they found plenty of time to sign off on a slew of new proposed tax exemptions earlier this week.