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Backers collecting signatures for $275 million Seattle homeless levy

SEATTLE — Backers of a proposed $275 million property-tax levy to fund efforts to curb homelessness in Seattle have begun collecting signatures.

Our news partner The Seattle Times reports the Yes on I-126 campaign began gathering signatures Friday.

Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer brought the idea for the ballot initiative to Mayor Ed Murray.

The campaign will use volunteers and paid staff to gather the 30,000 signatures needed to qualify for the Aug. 1 Seattle ballot. The deadline to turn in signatures to the city clerk’s office is April 5.

Announced by Murray in February, the proposed levy would raise $275 million over five years. The money would be used to pay for long-term and short-term rent subsidies, the expansion of local shelters and several other programs to provide mental-health and substance-abuse treatment for homeless people.

The new revenue would allow service providers to “meet the scale of the problem,” said Daniel Malone, Downtown Emergency Service Center director and campaign co-chairman.

In King County, more than 10,500 live without shelter, according to a 2016 overnight tally — a 19 percent increase over 2015.

Meanwhile, two local activists who have been critical of the city’s efforts to manage the homelessness crisis have formed campaigns to oppose the tax initiative.

One-time mayoral candidate Elizabeth Campbell has filed to create the Safe and Affordable Seattle committee. On Friday, Harvey Lever of Safe Seattle filed to form the Homeless Evidence, Transparency and Accountability in Seattle committee.