Editor’s Note: The standard disclaimer applies: the opinions expressed reflect those of the author and not the website or editors. In the interest of full disclosure, this opinion piece was sent to Wallyhood by a representative of the “Yes for Homes!” campaign and not directly from the author. The author did confirm she authored the piece via email. As we experiment with different types of articles, we would love to hear feedback on the growing type of editorials we are publishing.
In January, I led a team of volunteers on our annual One Night Count of the Homeless, as we combed the streets between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. trying to account for the magnitude of our region’s homelessness crisis. As a community, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact not just on homelessness, but on the huge problem of housing affordability in Seattle. A yes vote to renew and expand the expiring Seattle Housing Levy is vote to continue 35 years of successful public investment in permanently affordable homes. The levy consistently meets or exceeds targets for production and preservation of affordable housing units, providing stable homes for families, school kids, seniors and others living on fixed incomes.
I believe every person deserves a safe, stable, and affordable place to live, which is why I’m proudly voting YES on Proposition 1 this August.
Proposition 1 will add more than 2,150 permanent, rent-restricted, affordable units across Seattle – adding to the 12,500 that have been produced with support from prior levies. But these aren’t just housing units. They’re homes for preschool teachers so they can live near quality transit and services. They’re homes for social workers who can then be members of the communities they serve. And they’re homes for families exiting homelessness. Each unit produced or preserved with levy funds will remain affordable for at least 50 years – guaranteeing future generations a sustainable source of affordable housing.
Unfortunately, opponents of Proposition 1 are using inaccurate data on taxes and missing key factors that have made prior levies so successful. The median assessed home value in Seattle is $480,000 – as determined by the King County Assessor. Zillow doesn’t assess property values for purposes of taxation – the Assessor does. This is how the $5 per month for the median assessed Seattle home is calculated. Opponents cite Wallingford assessed values as being higher than the city as a whole – and they are correct. The median assessed home in Wallingford will see a tax increase of just $6.25 per month if Proposition 1 passes.
Additionally, opponents cite the 2009 levy unit production goal of 1,670 rental units compared to the 2016 levy goals. The 2009 goal was significantly exceeded thanks to favorable market conditions that don’t exist today, as well as a temporary increase in federal investment through the stimulus package – funds we were able to leverage to produce over 400 units more (to date) than the goal promised to voters. Put another way, for every $1 of Seattle property tax paid in the 2009 levy, $3 in additional matching state and federal dollars were invested in Seattle. If the 2016 levy fails, we lose those matching funds, and those state and federal investments go elsewhere.
Beyond the modest cost of this levy, the people served are our very own neighbors. Stone Way Apartments, Fremont Solstice Apartments – there are even affordable homes in the Good Shepherd Center – all funded thanks to Seattle’s Housing Levy. Wallingford is a thriving neighborhood because of the people who live here – people from all walks of life.
Of course, there are more programs in Seattle’s Housing Levy than production and preservation of permanently affordable homes. Proposition 1 increases the emergency rental assistance program from $4.25 million to $11.5 million, giving us the tools we need to help more families avoid homelessness in the first place – 4,500 families will be able to remain in their homes over the next seven years thanks to this program. And this program has a history of success – 83% of families receiving this short-term rental assistance, coupled with case management, are still living in stable housing for at least six months after the support ends. With 20% of Seattle households identified as “severely cost burdened” – spending more than half of their income on rent and basic utilities – this is a crucial program that has prevented 6,500 families from plunging into homelessness since 2002.
Ours is a neighborhood that houses one of the best known providers of housing and services – Solid Ground, founded by our very own Representative Frank Chopp. Along with producing and preserving affordable homes for families across Seattle, Solid Ground helps administer the emergency rental assistance program, providing short-term assistance to low-wage renters at risk of eviction, and helping them find more sustainable housing.
The prior successes of our Housing Levy are why support for Proposition 1 is so incredibly broad. Labor organizations, Democrats, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, neighborhood groups, Tenants Union of Washington, United Way, Solid Ground, Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness, Gender Justice League, dozens of current and former elected officials, and hundreds of our fellow community members have all endorsed the “Yes for Homes” Proposition 1 campaign.
Seattle taxpayers have generously supported this public investment for the last 35 years. That support has helped to build more than 12,500 affordable units across the city.
I remember a time when people didn’t live on the streets and I hope that my daughter will be able to look back on her childhood and say “we fixed that.” Please join me, as a 13 year Wallingford resident, a Seattleite, and a member of this generous community in voting YES on Proposition 1.