City Council Majority Supports New Affordable Housing Plan

After weeks of Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant calling on her colleagues to redirect money intended for a new police precinct to fund affordable housing, a majority of the city council has come on board with her idea—sorta.

Six council members including Sawant have announced a proposal to sell city bonds to fund 500 units of affordable housing. But the bonds will not take full funding away from the controversial North Seattle precinct, as Sawant has advocated.

Under the plan, the city would sell bonds to raise $29 million in 2017. That money would then go into a city fund for affordable housing. Nonprofit housing developers could apply for money out of that fund, pair it with other funding, and build housing, as they do now for money raised through the housing levy. (That’s what allows the $29 million to “create up to 500 units” of housing, although the units themselves would cost more than that. Here are some examples of how the $29 million could be spent.)

In a city facing an acute housing affordability crisis, calls to use the city’s bonding authority to help build more low-cost apartments have grown. Last year, the mayor’s influential housing affordability committee recommended using city bonds to fund loans for affordable housing. But the question of where to get the money to pay back those bonds—especially at any scale that can really make a difference in the crisis—has been divisive.

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