Seattle's Mayor Jenny Durkan announced this December a commitment of $100 million to build new (and support existing) affordable housing in the Seattle area. “Today, we are making a huge down payment on a more affordable future,” the mayor said in a press conference announcing the decision.
This announcement follows up and doubles down on investments made in previous years, making it the largest one-year investment the Office of Housing has ever put into affordable housing. With Seattle’s population continuing to grow at record rates and home prices are going through the roof, the investment could not have come at a better time.
Where Does the Money Come from and Where Will It Go?
A large portion of the $100 million investment will come from property taxes through the major housing levy that was approved by voters and passed in 2016. Projections at the time suggested the levy would add up to $290 million over a 9-year span, the bulk of which is slated for affordable housing. Some of the funds appropriated from the levy this year are actually a loan of sorts, taking money out of the levy in advance of payment. This advance in funding recognizes the urgency of the current housing situation in Seattle.
The rest of the $100 million funding commitment will come from the $29 million bond passed in 2016 by the Seattle City Council, the incentive zoning program, which Seattle has used to gather fees from developers when they want to build higher-density developments, and various smaller federal and state funding sources.
The money will be disbursed to a wide range of nonprofit housing developers in the area and service providers for the homeless community. These organizations have planned to put these resources to work building 896 new apartments across nine new apartment complexes. They will restore and renovate 535 already existing affordable apartment units and they have plans to construct an additional 26 homes specifically for families of low or moderate incomes. The prices and rent rates for these new developments will be targeted specifically at families with incomes below Seattle’s median income.
Housing Prices on the Rise
This big push for affordable housing in Seattle has never been more urgent and necessary. Population growth in the city in the last few years has been faster than any large city in the nation, and housing has gotten so expensive that affording a home is a formidable challenge, even for families whose income is around the median.
In Seattle, median home values have risen to $720,000, and rents are climbing more each year. If these numbers don’t make the crisis clear on their own, Seattle and King County have been recognized as now having the third-highest homeless population in the country. It remains to be seen, however, if this push will be enough to change that trend. Further measures to encourage affordable housing development and draw more funds for nonprofit developers are in the works.