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Using New State Resources, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda Announce Legislation to Invest at Least $50 Million in Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness

Seattle Will Be First City in Washington State 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 (July 24, 2019) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda today announced new legislation to provide at least $50 million in new resources to build and support housing for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle without new taxes. Seattle currently has 1900 permanent supportive housing units.  

Mayor Durkan made the announcement today as an initial step that is part of her new “Housing Seattle Now,” 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). 

“This past legislative session, the City of Seattle’s top priority was to create new tools to build and operate more affordable housing. The critical local option bond bill gives the City the ability to retain more sales tax revenues and new bonding capacity to build and operate new affordable homes for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan. “Now, we have the chance to invest more than $50 million to build and support new homes for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Thank you to our legislative partners, including Representative June Robinson, Representative Nicole Macri, Speaker Frank Chopp, and Senator David Frockt.”   

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 is losing lives and we’re losing neighbors as a result of this crisis. We know what works to solve homelessness: permanent supportive housing. 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 neighborhoods experiencing homelessness. Bonding against these dollars will ensure that we are able to respond with urgency to this crisis by bringing new permanentsupportive housing online now.”

“In 2017, I championed legislation to allow the City to issue limited tax general obligation bonds for infrastructure projects. This new authority would allow Seattle to enhance our bonding capacity, and it’s a high priority for me that Seattle double its annual housing investments for the four remaining years of the Housing Levy to move closer to the 2018 McKinsey report recommendation that $360- 410 million a year is invested to help people with severest housing need. This will help us do so,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, District 1, West Seattle/South Park.

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.  

If passed by City Council this fall, new funds could be available by the beginning of 2020.