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Seattle Property Tax Levy (2009)

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A Seattle Property Tax Levy appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Seattle, King County. The 7 year tax levy is estimated to bring in about $145 million. The vote on the Seattle City Council to put the levy on the November ballot was unanimous.[1]

The measure was approved.[2]

  • Yes: 53715 (63.33%)Approveda
  • No: 31102 (36.67%)

The levy was proposed in April by Mayor Greg Nickels, who expressed the need for more affordable housing in the Seattle area.

The levy will cost $17 per $100,000 of assessed property value. According to city statistics, an average residence in the city has an assessed valuation of $460,000. Thus, the average homeowner will pay $79/year in additional real estate property taxes. Right now, property owners are paying a $49/year levy that was approved in 2002. That levy expires this year. The net increase, then, with the old levy expiring, will be about $30/year per $460,000 home.

Potential Effects

$104 million of the money will go to construct or renovate apartment buildings, creating or preserving 1,670 units. Another $9.1 million will go to loans to assist first-time home buyers in purchasing 180 homes.[3]

The remainder will go to administration, subsidies, rent assistance, or to a fund for buying land or buildings that will be developed into affordable housing. A total of $13.2 million will be spent administering the programs.

Council members assured that most of the money would go to families with a very low income. Under the proposed levy, temporary or short-term assistance will be available for low- to moderate-income families and individuals to help preserve their housing, preventing eviction and homelessness.[4]

Support

Council members have stated that the need for more affordable housing outweighed concerns about adding to the taxpayers' burden during a recession.

According to a recent survey, 73 percent of Seattle residents surveyed believed that it’s more important than ever to keep investing in low-income housing programs and assistance.[5][6] With more homeless and elder citizens in the city, this is seen as a need to keep those types of residents off the streets and in a safe place to live. The need to ensure affordable housing seems to be a top priority for many locals[7]

Opposition

Although ultimately voting in favor of putting the proposed levy on the ballot, City Council member Jan Drago voiced reservations about the $145 million levy, suggesting it should be lowered to $120 million. But she couldn't get a council member to second her motion. Drago, who ran against Mayor Nickels in the next election, said, ""I wonder when Seattle voters will say no. We've never experienced the economic climate we're in now."[8] The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce had urged Nickels to renew the levy but to hold it to $86 million.

Others against the tax just state that this is not the time to impose more taxes on city residents, that the housing market is still falling and affordable prices will emerge on their own in time.[7]

Media editorial positions

Editorial boards in support

  • The Seattle Times is in support of the levy. They said,"In these tough times, we support the seven-year, $145 million housing levy. Vote yes. Goals for production of housing for seniors, low-income and moderate-income families and formerly homeless individuals are worthy ones, especially now."[9]

Other Seattle tax levies

  • In 2008, Seattle's voters approved a six-year levy for Pike Place Market that costs the owner of a $450,000 home about $43.00/year.[8]
  • In 2008, voters approved a six-year "Parks and Green Spaces" levy that costs a $450,000 homeowner $82.00/year.[8]

References