Seattle (August 14, 2019) – Standing at Plymouth Place in Lower Queen Anne, with former Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, and Representative Nicole Macri, homelessness service providers, and community members, today Mayor Jenny A. Durkan signed into law legislation that will provide at least $50 million in new resources – without new taxes – to build and support housing for people experiencing long-term homelessness.
The legislation, which was approved unanimously by the City Council on Monday, August 12, is the fifth piece of major housing legislation that Mayor Durkan has signed in 2019 and a key part of her “Housing Seattle Now” initiative, a surge of investments in housing across Seattle.
With the new law taking effect, Seattle will be among the first cities in the state to take advantage of the new state law that allows cities to retain more sales tax to fund the development and operations of affordable housing.
“Seattle now has more tools to build and operate new affordable homes our neighbors experiencing long-term homelessness,” 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 people who have been living unsheltered for a significant period of time. I applaud the City Council’s quick work to pass this bill. Now, we can seize the chance to be among the first cities in the state to seize this opportunity to invest more in housing for our neighbors living outside.”
Mayor Durkan announced plans to advance the legislation along with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 9, Citywide), at the launch of her Housing Seattle Now initiative, a surge of investments in housing that go beyond the ongoing housing investments made through the Seattle Housing Levy and Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), to create affordable housing for low- and middle-income families (middle-income starting at 60% of area median income or $66,400 for a family of four).
“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.”
The new investment of at least $50 million, planned to be used for housing for people experiencing long-term homelessness, does not require raising taxes. Instead, it allows the City to retain sales tax revenue to support affordable housing. The Washington State legislature passed House Bill 1406 during this legislative session and it was a top priority for the City of Seattle as Mayor Durkan, Councilmember Mosqueda, and other City officials lobbied in support of its passage. The new 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 funds could be available in the first quarter of 2020.
Currently, Seattle provides housing for nearly 2,000 people who have experienced long-term homelessness in permanently supportive homes. Permanent Supportive Housing typically serves people who have experienced homelessness for long periods of time, usually for a year or more, and have disabling conditions like behavioral health challenges, substance abuse disorder, developmental disabilities, or a chronic physical illness.
In 2019, Mayor Durkan has signed legislation and an executive order creating a path for more in-law apartments and backyard cottages, signed an executive order to address displacement and establish a community preference policy, signed legislation implementing the citywide expansion of Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) that will produce 6,000 affordable homes throughout the city within 10 years, and signed legislation advancing her vision of a new affordable, livable community at Fort Lawton.