by Tammy Morales
In South Seattle we know the housing affordability crisis affects our entire city. But many here feel the displacement and gentrification, the crisis that comes from a lack of affordable homes in other parts of the city, affects South Seattle more acutely. More and more people are choosing to move here – with mixed impacts on historic South Seattle neighborhoods.
Over the past 35 years, maintaining affordable communities in South Seattle has required a strong commitment to public investment in affordable housing. What started as a way to preserve senior housing has become an investment that (until recently) ensured that baristas and grocery clerks, hospital workers and preschool teachers could afford to live in and near the communities they serve. Proposition 1, the Seattle Housing Levy currently on the ballot, continues and expands upon that investment for another seven years.
Thanks to the Seattle Housing Levy, we have produced or preserved over 12,500 units of permanently affordable, rent-restricted homes for those making less than 60% of the area median income (about $43,000 for a family of 2). We can see examples of public investment throughout South Seattle – Mt. Baker Lofts; New Holly; and the soon to be completed Mercy Othello Village.
Seattle’s Office of Housing recognizes the negative effects that come with unmitigated gentrification, and has long invested in affordable housing in communities at highest risk for displacement. However, we know that the risks remain. When elders in the Central Area and Brighton and Hillman City have realtors circling their block offering enormous sums for their homes, we know we have a problem.
Voting YES on Seattle Proposition 1 means voting yes for strategies that will keep Seattle a diverse place to live. Seattle’s Housing Levy will produce or preserve at least 2,150 permanently affordable, rent-restricted homes over the next seven years. We know this is just a start. We know that we must continue to address the affordability crisis from many different angles and at regional and national levels. Yet, we can do our part right now to ensure funding for affordable homes continues in our city by voting YES on Prop 1 so that those who work in Seattle can afford to live in Seattle.
Of course Proposition 1 goes beyond production and preservation of affordable homes. Through a significant increase in investment in supportive housing, Proposition 1 will ensure more wrap-around services are available to assist families transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing. It will also provide our neighbors living with a disability or experiencing mental illness with the support they need to live independently.
Since 2002 Seattle’s Housing Levy has provided critical emergency rental assistance for those at risk of eviction due to rent increases or an unexpected emergency. This assistance, coupled with case management, has helped over 6000 households find affordable housing options. Proposition 1 increases this investment, supporting 4,500 households over the next seven years – because as we know, the best way to avoid homelessness is to prevent homelessness.
Proposition 1 is a recipe for continued success. And the cost is very low. For the median assessed home in South Seattle, a yearly increase in property taxes of just over $42 per year – about $3.50 per month – will ensure that we can continue to produce and preserve permanently affordable homes for all members of our community. A small cost with a huge return on investment.
Your ballot should have arrived or will be very soon. Proposition 1 is at the very end of the ballot, on the back. Be sure to flip it over, find Proposition 1, and vote YES by August 2nd.
Yes for Proposition 1, Yes for Affordable Homes!
Featured image: CC Licensed photo by Joe Wolf/Flickr