How Should We Use Housing Levy Funds?

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Because of concerns some advocates of low income housing have expressed to me about too many housing levy funds being used by the Seattle Housing Authority for the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, on Monday I sent a letter requesting that Levy Oversight Committee (LOC) review the Levy Administrative & Financial (A & F) Policies as they relate to Yesler Terrace.

The Office of Housing supports $7.5 million of city levy funds for Yesler Terrace over the five years, contingent upon the Council passing a proposed Cooperative Agreement with SHA.  This would be roughly 7.5% of the housing levy funds expected to be received over that five year period.

According to Ordinance 123013, the Housing Levy Oversight Committee is empowered to “make recommendations on the A & F Plans and on actions to be taken, including additions to or deletions of programs or amounts of funds allocated to the several programs, so that Levy Programs may be conducted in a timely and efficient manner.”

Yesler Terrace is a 30-acre publicly subsidized housing community owned by Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) and located on the southern slope of First Hill, adjacent to downtown, Harborview Medical Center, the International District and Seattle University.  There are 1,200 residents at Yesler Terrace: they are families with children, seniors, people with disabilities, and immigrants, earning on average about $14,000 a year.  Since 2006, SHA has been working towards the redevelopment of the neighborhood.

Soon the Council will begin review of the redevelopment.  You can find more here.

I am pleased that the LOC has already responded to tell me that it looks forward to reviewing the current Levy A & F policy to determine whether they feel it is adequate or whether they believe greater specificity is needed to guarantee fair access to limited housing levy dollars. The LOC is scheduled to review proposed amendments to the Levy Administrative & Financial Plan in the next few months and they have asked the Office of Housing to schedule an additional meeting on Yesler Terrace and intend to also review the proposed Cooperative Agreement for Yesler Terrace, which contains the proposed Levy funding, before it is transmitted to Council.