The Council’s Seattle Housing Levy Select Committee unanimously (8-0) voted to dedicate up to $30,000,000 for affordable housing preservation in an effort to prevent further displacement of low-income communities. The $30 million amendment, sponsored by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien, will be used for a new program intended to preserve existing affordable multi-family subsidized and market-rate rental buildings. The funds will be included as part of an August Housing Levy ballot measure if the Full Council chooses to send it to voters on Monday, May 2.
The up to $30 million short term loan program will not add to the amount of the $290 million Housing Levy, rather, it is a repurposing of existing Levy funds not yet needed for Levy projects that will be repaid at a later date. Developers can tap the “Acquisition and Preservation Program” fund to quickly acquire buildings for the purpose of serving those at or below 60% of median income for rental housing and at or below 80% of median income for homeownership. Those funds would be repaid once the developer manages to acquire revenue from other sources, such as Mandatory Affordable Housing Fees, Community Development Block Grant, or other programs.
“While the proposed levy allocates resources that, in theory, could be used to preserve this market rate affordable housing, the current housing levy programs are not significantly oriented towards this need,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle, South Park). “Today’s amendment would make it possible to purchase properties like the Panorama or the Lockhaven Apartments, where tenants – many of them seniors – were displaced when the property sold and the rents increased drastically.”
Preserved buildings can be used as long-term affordable rental housing or converted to permanently affordable homeownership units. In an effort to retain currently existing communities, the program will prioritize areas at high risk of displacement.
“Building new affordable housing is an essential way we are able to maintain Seattle’s racial and economic diversity and vibrancy, but it cannot be our only strategy against displacement,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle). Enabling housing levy funds to be used to acquire tenant occupied buildings highlights the inherent value of keeping people in place where current residents and communities are living and thriving.”
Full Council is scheduled to vote on the full Housing Levy proposal Monday, May 2 at 2 p.m.