We are just five days away from the August 2 ballot due-date. While there are some big races this year, there is one measure, all the way at the end of your ballot, that will have a direct, meaningful impact on the affordability crisis in Seattle: Proposition 1, renewing and expanding Seattle’s Housing Levy. Building on 35 years of successful public investment creating and preserving over 12,500 rent-restricted homes reserved for low-income families, Proposition 1 will ensure we expand our affordable housing stock, while putting in place additional protections and safeguards for low-income households in Seattle.
As a city, we are engaged in numerous approaches to fund our investments in affordable housing and curb displacement of low-income residents. The city council recently passed a commercial linkage fee that makes new commercial developments pay into an affordable housing fund per new square footage. And the council is getting ready to pass a similar equation, a Mandatory Housing Affordability program, that mandates new residential developments pay for affordable housing. These two programs, expected to produce about 6,000 affordable units, bring for-profit developers into the funding mix in a way we never have before. And the Multi-Family Tax Exemption has helped to ensure our neighborhoods contain a mix of housing options for families across the income spectrum.
The Housing Levy is a key piece of this puzzle, especially effective for getting at a deeper level of affordability targeting households making 60 percent and below area median income, AMI—$37,980 annually for an individual, $48,780 for a three-person household. The majority of the Housing Levy investment supports individuals and families making 0-30 percent of AMI. For an individual that is just $19,000 per year—$24,400 for a three-person household. These are folks like our nursing and medical assistants, social workers, preschool teachers, artists and home health care workers.
But Seattle’s Housing Levy does more than just produce and preserve affordable homes. Since 2002, the emergency rental assistance program contained in the levy has helped some 6,500 low-income households at imminent risk of eviction remain in their homes and provided case management to help those served find and obtain more sustainable housing options. Eighty three percent of families served by the program continue to have stable housing six months after the support has ended. The 2016 levy doubles down on this investment expanding the program to support at least 4,500 families over the next seven years because we know that the best way to reduce homelessness is to prevent it in the first place.
The levy also includes a homeownership program. This continues prior programs partnering with community land trusts to provide down payment assistance for moderate-income families, opening homeownership to more people in Seattle that cannot afford the skyrocketing housing costs due to limited housing supply in Seattle. In addition, foreclosure prevention assistance for homeowners at 80 percent or below AMI is included in this levy, along with a pilot program to provide emergency home repair grants for homeowners at or below 50 percent AMI so they can ensure their homes remain safe and healthy.
Addressing our affordability crisis is not easy and there is no-one-size fits all solution.
But the Seattle Housing Levy is a comprehensive approach that provides meaningful, impactful benefits for low-income families, seniors and neighbors exiting homelessness. And with a modest cost of just $5 more per month for the median assessed homeowner in Seattle, the return on investment is huge.
I believe that here in Seattle, we value all members of our community and we have a history of, when push comes to shove, standing up and doing what is right - it’s the Seattle way. That is why I support the renewal and expansion of Seattle’s Housing Levy—and I hope you will join me in voting YES on Proposition 1 by August 2!