seattle affordable housing

Photo: Seattle City Council/Flickr

The Seattle City Council voted 7-2 to forge ahead with a bonds-for-housing plan last week. Proposed by council member Lisa Herbold, the plan requires the city to raise $29 million next year through bonds that will be paid off over 30 years.

The move is the second major effort this year to address Seattle’s affordable housing crisis. In August, city residents voted to double a housing tax levy in an effort to raise $290 million for rental housing development and preservation, homeownership assistance, homelessness prevention and housing stability services. The measure was approved by 71 percent of voters and should result in the construction of 20,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years.

Tim Burgess, president of the Seattle City Council, believes the increased levy will be enough to increase affordable housing in the city, and is not in favor of the bonds. He and Mayor Ed Murray are concerned they will divert funds from the Seattle Police Department.

Last week’s decision to move forward with the bonds shows that other council members aren’t confident that the levy alone will be enough to pay for the amount of affordable housing needed in Seattle.

“We are in a homelessness state of emergency. We need to build today to meet the need. Building today is less expensive than building at future costs, and these funds will continue to benefit the community for the entire period of the bond payment under their 50+ year regulatory agreement. When the City issues bonds to finance capital needs we gain the ability to deliver projects faster and enjoy their benefits sooner,” said Herbold in a press release.

Herbold, along with council members Sally Bagshaw, M. Lorena González, Rob Johnson, Mike O’Brien and Kshama Sawant, has also discussed the urgency of relying on local — not federal — resources in the current political climate.

“There is legitimate cause for concern that some elements of [the Housing Affordability and Livability] plan rely on federal resources that may now be at risk. As Rachel Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance said, ‘The combination of Seattle’s housing needs and the uphill struggle to find alternate resources make local investments in affordable housing more critical than ever,’” said Herbold.

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