By Derrick Belgarde and Brett D’Antonio
Seattle is in the middle of a housing crisis, and we need to act! Every day, more and more families are struggling to make ends meet or forced to move out of the city. This housing affordability and supply crisis is complicated, but Seattle has a proven tool that will allow us to rise and face it: The Seattle Housing Levy. We must renew the levy this November.
The housing levy has generated affordable housing solutions across the housing continuum since 1986. For almost 40 years, the levy has built more than 12,000 units of affordable housing across the city of Seattle and created 1,000 homeownership opportunities—housing more than 16,000 people overall.
The people who benefit from the housing it provides are nurses, grocery store workers, bus drivers, and other working people this city depends on every single day. More housing means more families can afford to live where their kids go to school; more housing means more opportunities for working people to thrive.
The rental assistance component of the levy will help an estimated 9,000 people. The homeownership component will create 360 affordable homeownership opportunities. And the prevention component will help keep thousands of renters and homeowners from becoming homeless due to eviction or foreclosure.
The levy has made a huge difference in Seattle, including through Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County. Habitat’s mission is to build a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. It is because of the levy that we can build more homes and support Seattleites like Amber, a Habitat homeowner in our Capitol View community and a cultural worker in Seattle. Before moving into her home in Capitol Hill, she faced rising rents and the possibility of having to leave. Now, she owns her home in Capitol Hill and has stability and peace of mind. The levy lets us make more stories like Amber’s possible.
When renewed, the levy will invest $970 million in creating and preserving at least 3,500 affordable homes and stabilizing 4,500 low-income families and individuals. The rental assistance component of the levy will help an estimated 9,000 people. The homeownership component will create 360 affordable homeownership opportunities. And the prevention component will help keep thousands of renters and homeowners from becoming homeless due to eviction or foreclosure.
Investing in housing is also critical to Seattle’s racial equity goals. In a landmark 2022 report, the state Department of Commerce and state Homeownership Disparities Workgroup found only 49 percent of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) households, and only 31 percent of Black households, own their homes, compared to 68 percent of white households. A history of redlining, land appropriation, racially restrictive covenants, and other discriminatory practices has led to these disparities.
To help right these historical wrongs, we need to invest in affordable housing of all types. The levy allows us to create new homes for first-time homebuyers as well as working, rent-burdened households that are spending more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing. Affordable housing projects, such as Chief Seattle Club’s ʔálʔal in Pioneer Square, which includes 80 units of low-income housing with wraparound services, are concrete examples of rental housing solutions that work.
The Seattle Housing Levy is a commitment to housing our people with the kind of love, compassion, and dedication that will transform lives and begin repairing the traumas of previous generations.
As affordable housing developers and providers, we work to build homes for everyday people, because when you provide a home to someone you change the world. Let’s make the right choice. Choose housing; vote yes on Proposition 1 by November 7.
Derrick Belgarde is the Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club. Brett D’Antonio is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties,