Seattle approves 30-year bond for building affordable housing
The Seattle City Council has approved a $29 million, 30-year bond to spend on affordable housing.
The city council voted 7-2 to approve the bond as part of the city’s 2017 budget, according to the Seattle Times. It joins a $290 million levy to go towards affordable housing that voters passed in August, Seattle TV station KIRO 7 reports. Once the interest is paid in full, the bonds will be valued at about $56 million.
The bond will go towards building 500 affordable housing units, The Stranger reports.
The affordable housing measure is being implemented during a turbulent time for homebuyers in Seattle. The amount of homes available for sale in Seattle and its surrounding area has decreased by about 13 percent year over year, per MarketWatch. Moreover, Seattle’s median home price was $505,000 as of August 2016, a 15 percent increase over the preceding 12 month period.
“There is, I think, a real opportunity and a chance that we’ll never touch that money for bonding,” Councilmember Sally Bagshaw told KIRO 7.
The measure, which was initially proposed in 2014, has taken a while to pass, Seattle Weekly reports. A similar measure to use bonds to fund affordable housing had been proposed by Councilmember Kshama Sawant. In April 2015, Councilmember Lisa Herbold proposed a bond to fight against the Seattle housing market. Her specific idea involved using the bond money to contract with agencies that would buy and renovate rental housing at risk of redevelopment.
“There wasn’t interest in moving it forward at that time,” Herbold told Seattle Weekly, “…so I’ve just been waiting for another opportunity to bring it up.”
Earlier this year, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed building a new North Seattle police precinct that would cost $160 million. While Murray advocated that the current precinct is in disrepair and is too small, the project has caused controversy due to the large price, Seattle TV station KCPQ reports. Councilmember Sawant took up the affordable housing cause once more, saying the money used for the precinct should instead be used for the affordable housing project she’d proposed in 2014.
“It’s a question of political priorities,” Sawant told KCPQ. “Even if we agree that the building is not in the most pristine of conditions, what is the most urgent thing? I think everybody who’s concerned about public safety will also agree that affordable housing rises at the top of the list because it is the crisis of affordability in this city that ultimately leads to un-livability in this city. It exacerbates the problem of homelessness.”
After activists and another councilmember joined Sawant’s cause, a nonpartisan affordable housing measure was finalized in late November, according to Seattle Weekly. While Murray was opposed to the bond, he pledged to sign the measure, KIRO 7 reports.