Over the past several years, there has been much discussion and debate about how to best tackle homelessness and affordability issues facing Seattle. And while these are complex challenges requiring a range of solutions, there is one very tangible way to ensure access to affordable housing for those in need for years to come.
Proposition 1 on the August 2 City of Seattle ballot is that critical step. This measure will replace and expand the existing housing levy that has been in place in Seattle since 1981. If approved, it would cost the average Seattle homeowner an additional five dollars per month.
When federal spending on affordable housing was cut in 1981, Seattle was the first city to introduce a local mechanism to build affordable homes—the housing levy. For 35 years that program has provided stability for people who are on the edge of homelessness or who were formerly homeless. Since 1981, the housing levy has helped to generate and preserve more than 12,500 affordable rental homes as well as supportive housing for people who are dealing with addiction and mental health issues.
Seattle Prop. 1 will provide more opportunities for seniors, service industry workers, teachers, and social workers who work in Seattle to live in Seattle. The housing levy will produce at least 2,150 affordable homes, and they’ll continue to be affordable for 50 years after production..
I served on Mayor Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) task force, and what I saw during those meetings was an inspiring approach to addressing the lack of affordable housing in Seattle. HALA brought together a wide range of groups and perspectives to formulate a plan to address the housing affordability challenge in Seattle. Developers, architects, health and human service providers, environmentalists and other nonprofits worked together to develop a bold and detailed plan to address housing affordability in Seattle.
Renewing the housing levy is a vital part of the HALA plan, and one that is endorsed by a wide range of organizations and community groups..
The HALA plan will produce 50,000 homes, including preservation and production of 20,000 new affordable homes, over the next 10 years. The housing levy is a critical component to this plan.
Approving the housing levy is the most direct action we can take right now to prevent homelessness for thousands of people.
Seattle has led the way on the housing first approach—connecting people struggling with addiction and mental illness with supportive housing - yet the need remains great. Too many people are too close becoming homeless or are spending their nights in a park or a parked car. The research is clear, providing homes for people living on the streets is cost effective, saving money that otherwise would be spent on emergency room visits and other expensive public services. Please join me in voting YES on Proposition 1 by next Tuesday.
Jon Scholes is president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association. Earlier this week progressive Seattle city council member Mike O'Brien wrote an opinion piece supporting the levy as well.