The ayes have it for putting a $145 million Housing Levy renewal on Seattle's fall ballot.
In a unanimous June 15 vote, the City Council largely approved the seven-year levy renewal package put forward in April by Mayor Greg Nickels, who proposed less than what his levy advisory committee had come up with -- $167 million -- in a bid to pass muster with recession-strapped voters ("Downtown business groups say proposal too high," May 6-12).
But the council made critical modifications sought by some housing advocates, including adopting language in the levy ordinance itself on how the levy's $104 million rental housing production fund can be spent.
Where the mayor had proposed spending at least 55 percent of the rental housing money on units serving the poorest (those with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median, or $17,700 for one person), the council stipulated that at least 60 percent of the money will be spent in that category. They also capped the funds going to units for households at 61 to 80 percent of median, or $35,400 to $47,200, at 10 percent of the levy's total. Those higher-income households, housing advocates had argued, are in little need of rental subsidies.
Some had also urged the council for the higher $167 million levy, but in a June 11 committee session, Councilmember Tim Burgess lamented there just weren't the votes to do it. With the rental funding restrictions in place, however, "We got what we wanted. That was great," says John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition. "Without qualification, we can strongly support the levy."
The measure, which would raise the average Seattle homeowner's property tax $30 a year, would fund building or buying 1,670 low-income rental units, provide emergency rent payments to about 4,000 households and make downpayment loans to 180 first-time home buyers.