Seattle is a great city. As with any great place, however, we face challenges. One of the challenges that touches most of us in the city is the increasing affordability crisis. With rents rising 11 percent year-over-year and an overall dearth of adequate affordable units and housing options, we all have been or know someone who is right on the edge of homelessness.
Voters this August have the opportunity to take a major step forward in addressing Seattle’s growing housing affordability crisis by supporting Proposition 1, the Seattle Housing Levy. The $290 million proposal renews and expands the current housing levy, which expires at the end of the year, continuing and growing on 35 years of successful public investment in affordable housing in Seattle.
Since 1981, Seattle’s public investment in affordable housing has helped to produce more than 12,500 homes that are permanently affordable and rent-restricted. This nationally recognized program has helped to ensure that seniors on fixed incomes, preschool workers and families and individuals exiting homelessness have sustainably affordable options. While the housing levy alone does not solve the crisis, this is a cornerstone in our ability to leverage state and federal funds to build more housing reserved for those who need it most.
Of course, Seattle’s housing levy does more: Since 2002, the levy’s emergency rental assistance program has provided critical support for 6,500 low-income households at imminent risk of eviction with rent assistance and help in finding and moving into a more sustainable housing situation.
Further, this levy more than doubles the investment in the operating and maintenance program.
This is an unprecedented investment in supportive housing for community members experiencing chronic homelessness, creating the units we need to transition hundreds of additional homeless Seattleites into permanent housing. Additionally, this fund will assist with wraparound services for our neighbors living with mental illness and other disabilities who need additional supports to live independently.
Quite simply, without the capital investments this fund makes in new supportive housing units, our ability to effectively address chronic homelessness in Seattle would be much more limited.
Thanks to the successes of prior levies and the priorities identified in this measure, Seattle’s housing levy maintains quite possibly the broadest support of any local initiative to address the affordability crisis. Mayor Ed Murray and all nine Seattle City Council members are united in endorsing Proposition 1, joined by the Housing Development Consortium, multiple Democratic Party organizations, the M.L. King County Labor Council, Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, transit advocates, social justice organizations and many more.
Visit yesforhomes.com to learn more about the levy and ways that you can join the campaign to ensure its success on the Aug. 2 ballot.
And be sure to say yes for homes, by voting yes on Proposition 1!
Daniel Malone is the executive director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center or DESC.