Council Approves $29 Million Bond to Finance Affordable Housing

Herbold sponsored the budget item as an alternative to Sawant’s $160 million plan.

This afternoon, the Seattle City Council voted to add to its budget a plan to take out a loan of $29 million to pay for affordable housing development. The move represents a compromise between a much bigger financing package proposed by socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant and budget hawks who objected to the high cost of repaying interest on a loan. There is not yet a specific plan for how that money will be used.

This fall, Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to build a new $160 million North Seattle police precinct got paused under public pressure from both anti-incarceration activists and people who objected to the project’s unprecedented price tag. Murray planned to use real estate tax revenue and bonding (that is, taking a loan from investors) to pay for the new precinct. Sawant was one of the precinct’s main opponents on council. But she was intrigued by its funding structure, which she believed could be used to pay for the construction of 1,000 units of affordable housing. Non-partisan council staff agreed: by shuffling around different pots of money, they wrote in a memo, the council could circumvent state rules against bonding to pay for housing.

Sawant introduced an amendment to the budget that would do just that. It failed to gain enough support to get on the budget. But District 1 (West Seattle) councilmember Lisa Herbold proposed a lesser alternative: $29 million in bonds to pay for affordable housing.

Today, that budget item got voted onto the council’s final draft of the budget. Sawant seconded the motion to introduce it, and the only councilmembers to vote against it were Tim Burgess (position 8, citywide) and Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle). Both objected in part because they believed the cost of repaying interest on the loan outweighed the benefits of using bonded money to build affordable housing units as soon as possible. Both previously voted in favor of the north precinct financing package.

We asked Burgess why he voted against both Sawant’s and Herbold’s housing finance plans but previously voted in favor of using a similar plan to finance the north precinct. He says the key difference is where the money for repaying the bonds comes from. “The north precinct money uses the city’s flow of [real estate tax revenue] that is designed to be used for capitol projects and city projects,” says Burgess. “Councilmember Sawant’s proposal does not do that, and relies on general fund money, which is the same reason I voted no on Herbold’s $29 million.” Because the proposals lack specific funding sources to repay the bonds, says Burgess, they could eat into the city’s general fund and sap funding from elsewhere in the budget. In other words, Burgess says, he opposed Herbold’s and Sawant’s proposals “not because I don’t want to build more affordable housing, but because that kind of debt financing will force us to take money away from other programs.”

The final vote on the budget will be on Monday afternoon at City Hall.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

Comparison map between current district map and proposed draft. (Screenshot from King County’s website)
King County proposes redistricting map, asks for feedback from public

Public invited to comment at November 30 public hearing.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

A Snoqualmie Officer was involved in a shooting Tuesday night, Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Police Department.
Man killed by Snoqualmie Police was homeless, living in car

The 33-year-old man who was killed by a Snoqualmie police officer late… Continue reading

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

courtesy of PropertyShark
State’s richest zip codes are all in East King County, according to home value study

Medina zip code ranks among top 10 most affluent in the nation.

file photo
One-car collision on I-5 near Southcenter kills two 19-year-olds

According to the incident report, neither the passenger or driver were wearing seatbelts.

Most Read