Seattle mayor proposes $290 million housing levy to help combat homelessness

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SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Wednesday laid out an ambitious – and expensive – plan to help combat homelessness and provide more affordable housing.  He’s pushing a nearly $300 million property tax for this fall’s ballot.

“It’s probably the most important thing we can do this year, as Seattleites, on the issue of housing affordability,” Murray said.

The levy, a renewal of an existing program, is Murray’s latest effort to deal with the homeless and housing crisis facing the city.

Those who currently live in city subsidized units and have been helped by past housing levies say a new bigger program is needed now more than ever.

“If you are low income,” said Al Korpela, “you need affordable housing. Without that, you’re homeless. It’s as simple as that."

Korpela lives in a subsidized senior apartment on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.  Having worked for years, he still faced a retirement with little income and lots of fear.

“It’s not just being homeless,” Korpela said.  "It’s your mental health, it’s your physical health, it’s everything.  So, it’s all connected to having a roof over your head.”

Murray’s $290 million plan promises new affordable opportunities throughout the city, including:

  • 2,150 new units
  • 350 renovated units
  • Rental assistance for 4,500 households
  • Homeowners assistance for 380 households

Here’s the cost:

  • $290 million over 7 years
  • Proposal Rate: $122/year for average homeowner
  • Current rate: $60/year

“We’re doubling it this time because the crisis is that much bigger,” Murray said.  “But to create thousands of homes for folks to live in this city and not live in our streets, I think we can afford that.”

The mayor hopes the city’s taxpayers see it that way as well.