SEATTLE – Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle) and Councilmember Kirsten Harris-Talley (Pos. 8, Citywide) together announced a proposal intended to help meet the costs associated with alleviating the factors contributing to Seattle’s homelessness crisis – namely, places for people to live in the short- and long-term.
Three critical changes to the City’s approach to more permanent housing could make a significant difference for living unsheltered in Seattle. First, increasing the number of 24 hour shelters and additional safe zones for vehicles to help stabilize people in need; second, increasing outreach and assistance, such as the expansion of the nationally recognized L.E.A.D. program third, creating more permanent housing options — including rental assistance vouchers — for those making 0-30% of area median income.
The 2018 Proposed Budget from the Mayor provides ongoing funding for these efforts. While the investments made in housing are significant, they still don’t meet the need. In addition, the Mayor’s budget does not provide adequate resources for 24-hour shelters, including but not limited to encampments and tiny homes. There is also currently no City-sponsored or private sector plan for additional permanent housing or rental assistance beyond current investments.
“We can’t ignore the displacement caused by growth in Seattle,” said O’Brien. “Without more 24-hour shelter so people can come inside and new short- and long-term housing solutions, our existing system is setup to fail,” O’Brien added.
O’Brien and Harris-Talley introduced H.O.M.E.S. proposal, (Housing, Outreach and Mass-Entry Shelter) to address short-term needs, like outreach, the citywide expansion of L.E.A.D., and 24-hour shelters, along with more permanent, long-term housing. The proposal would be funded by a new business tax on large employers. The tax is assessed at $0.048 (4.8 cents) per hour, per employee and would affect the top 10% of the highest-grossing businesses in Seattle.
“It is our large employers who have benefited most from Seattle’s economic boom,” said Harris-Talley. “As a result, big business is best positioned to help relieve some of the pressure created by rapid economic growth. We need a systemic fix to help address the resulting lack of affordable housing and dearth of places for people to go. This is a solution that protects the most vulnerable in our city and will help small businesses thrive.”
The H.O.M.E.S. proposal will generate up to $24 million, which is equivalent to approximately $100 per employee on an annual basis. The tax should take effect early 2018.
Councilmembers will be briefed during Budget Deliberations, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, October 16.
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