Seattle Poised to Take Advantage of New State Law That Allows Cities to Retain More Sales Tax to Fund Affordable Housing Development and Operations; City of Seattle and Mayor Durkan Had Advocated for New State Law in Olympia This Legislative Session
Seattle (August 12, 2019) – Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today celebrated the 8 – 0 unanimous vote by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Chair of the Housing, Health, Energy & Workers’ Rights Committee, and the members of the City Council to advance legislation to provide at least $50 million in new resources to build and support housing for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle without new taxes. The new funds could be available by the beginning of 2020.
The legislation announced by Mayor Durkan and Councilmember Mosqueda on July 24, is a key initial step in Mayor Durkan’s “Housing Seattle Now” initiative, a plan for a surge of City investments in housing for low- and middle-income families in addition to ongoing housing investments made by the Seattle Housing Levy and Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA).
Seattle currently sustains nearly 2,000 people in permanent supportive housing units.
“This important step gives Seattle new tools to build and operate new affordable homes for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan. “In this past legislative session, the City of Seattle’s top priority was to create new tools to build and operate more affordable housing. Now, we have the chance to invest more than $50 million to build and support new homes for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. I applaud the City Council’s quick work to pass this bill, and I look forward to standing with community members and signing it into law this week. We are ready for Seattle to be among the first cities in the state to seize this opportunity to invest more in housing for our neighbors living unsheltered.”
The new investment of at least $50 million in housing for people experiencing homelessness does not require raising taxes. Instead, it allows the City to retain its sales tax revenue for affordable housing. Under the plan, the City of Seattle will be the first city in Washington State to begin to implement the new state law. Passed this legislative session, HB 1406 was a top priority for the City of Seattle. Mayor Durkan, Councilmember Mosqueda and the City of Seattle lobbied for and the Legislature passed House Bill 1406. The state law gives local jurisdictions flexibility to use the sales tax funds for capital dollars to build new housing, operations and maintenance for supportive housing, or a combination of capital and operations.
“The 2019 Point-in-Time Count found that there were 11,199 people experiencing homelessness in Seattle/King County—and that’s a conservative estimate,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Position 8, Citywide. “Seattle needs to act with urgency to respond to this crisis, and we know what works to solve homelessness: permanent supportive housing, with wraparound services and medical care for those who are disabled or mentally ill. Thanks to our state partners, Seattle now has the option to retain a portion of sales tax dollars already being collected to provide us with much-needed local funds that we can leverage with state and federal dollars to create more homes for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Using our bonding capacity will ensure that we are able to maximize the positive impact of these funds to create new permanent supportive housing now.”
In the coming months, Mayor Durkan will continue to work the Council to ensure that City has the appropriate resources to provide both capital investments for new permanent supportive housing as well as sufficient funding to operate new supportive units.