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Murray plans big property tax boost, Sawant calls for emergency $10M in Seattle homelessness crisis — UPDATE

As volunteers and officials prepare for this year’s One Night Count of homeless people living on the streets of Seattle and King County overnight Thursday, Seattle leaders are calling for increased funding to help create more housing and shelter in the region and calling for more to be done across the state.

Sleeping between graffiti

Tuesday night, Mayor Ed Murray said he will ask Seattle voters to approve a doubling of the housing levy last approved in 2009. “Beginning tonight at City Hall, we are holding community meetings across Seattle to share our city’s vision for how we bring affordable housing to every neighborhood,” Murray said. “And in just a few weeks, I will lay out my vision for the renewal of Seattle’s Housing Levy. I am proposing that we double the levy so that we can do much more — including permanent housing for those who are homeless.”

“Perhaps as a city, there is nothing more important that we can do this year than pass this levy,” Murray added.

The around $190 million proposal will undoubtedly face opposition from property owners who have complained about the steadily increasing number of levies stacked on Seattle land. In February, for example, Seattle voters will be faced with two school levies to replace expiring funding. According to the Seattle Times, there will be a record $228.5 million in voter-approved levy taxes collected in the city in 2016. But the paper’s analysis concludes that Seattle ranks extremely low in the nation when it comes to its effective tax rate. “Seattle property taxes are high because our homes are worth so much, not because we’re being gouged by an excessively high rate,” the Times reports.

And, landlords, it could be worse.

“The Mayor has said that the only way we can generate additional funds for the homeless is by taking resources away from other social needs,” District 3 rep Kshama Sawant said in a statement on homelessness released Thursday morning.

“We have to demand that City officials enact new progressive revenue sources, such as by taxing big business and the rich.” — Council member Sawant

“This is not accurate. We have to demand that City officials enact new progressive revenue sources, such as by taxing big business and the rich.”

Sawant called on City Hall “to allocate $10 million for additional shelter beds” immediately. Sawant also repeated her calls for Seattle to move forward with rent control and using the city’s “bonding capacity” to build affordable housing.

The Council member announced a People’s Assembly on February 27, 11 AM at City Hall, “to come together, discuss solutions to homelessness and develop a joint plan to mobilize from below to overcome the dominance of big developers, slum lords and speculators in this city.”

Video of Mayor Murray’s speech is below.

The mayor’s Tuesday night speech was overshadowed by a violent explosion of violence in The Jungle greenbelt along I-5 through Seattle where two people were killed and three wounded in a shooting below Beacon Hill. The greenbelt area and state property around I-5 is heavily used by campers throughout the city — including below Capitol Hill and the downtown convention center and on the south end of the East Precinct around Yesler Terrace. The persistent use of these areas has lead some to call for more resources to make the camps safer and better deal with the trash and human waste. In September, CHS reported that SPD was ready to begin enforcing no trespassing on state land along I-5 without the presence of a state official under a new agreement with WSDOT.

Thursday night’s One Night Count, in the meantime, is expected to reveal similar trends as last year. In 2015, the canvas found 3,772 individuals living outside and unsheltered in King County, a 21% increase from 2014. The surveys have also shown Central Seattle has one of the highest concentrations of homeless youth and young adults in King County, a population that is a fifth LGBTQ and a third African American.

There are other small advances to help improve conditions for homeless people in Seattle. Last week, the City Council approved the creation of parking lots to allow RV and vehicle camping plus the addition of a third tent encampment in Seattle. Another example is the newly opened Tiny House Village on church property on E Union in the Central District.

Seattle is slated to spend more than $47 million on homelessness in 2016 after Murray called for a “state of emergency” for homelessness in Seattle last year when more than 45 people died on the streets of the city. So far, Governor Jay Inslee has not joined in with a similar initiative across the state — though cities around the region are increasingly calling for assistance.

UPDATE 1/29/2016 9:40 AM: The 2016 One Night Count found 4,505 people living unsheltered in the streets of King County overnight. That’s a 19% increase over last year’s survey. In Seattle, the count found 2,942 outside, up from 2,813 in 2015, a 4.5% jump.

With a great deal of attention on people living in their vehicles, the 2016 One Night Count showed 31% of unsheltered tallied in Seattle were in vehicles. The number was even higher outside the city limits where more than 40% of those counted were in a motor vehicle.

The full announcement from the count organizers is below.CZ56TdFUYAAYXO2

This morning, under the guidance of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, over 1,000 volunteers spread out all over King County to witness and count the number of individuals living unsheltered for the annual One Night Count. All Home contracts with the Coalition to conduct this count. Volunteers estimate that 4,505 of our neighbors in King County were without shelter last night, a 19% increase over 2015.

From King County Executive Dow Constantine: “The One Night Count reveals the scope of the human tragedy of homelessness in our region. The results confirm the state of emergency and underscore the urgent need to work together – at every level of government and with our community partners – to create the housing, treatment, employment and other services that thousands of adults, children and families in King County need right now. We continue to call on our legislature and Congress to act. “

“We are committed to finding solutions to the crisis of homelessness. Though the need is great, homelessness is solvable, and by coming together as a community we can ensure that all people have a home” said Mark Putnam, Director of All Home.

The One Night Count is an important measure of need, and an opportunity to raise awareness and engagement among community members. This information is reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a requirement of our application for more than $30 million in federal funds for homeless housing and services each year.

“This is surely what an emergency looks like,” said Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “We’re grateful for the significant attention and increased resources Mayor Murray and Executive Constantine have put toward addressing recent rapid increases in homelessness. It is clear that this crisis affects our whole region and demands an unprecedented response.”

In the coming months, building on what we learned this morning about individuals living unsheltered, we will also estimate the number of veterans, chronically homeless individuals and people living in shelter and transitional housing to form a more comprehensive picture of homelessness in King County.

“It was important to me to participate in the Seattle/King County One Night Count this morning alongside many dedicated community members,” said Matthew Doherty, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Because of their efforts, we will have more information about the challenges Seattle/King County faces in its work to prevent and end homelessness. We look forward to working together to ensure that everyone in King County, and across the country, has a safe, stable place to call home.”

 

To learn more, see “Homeless in King County: Who, Why and What Can I Do?” To find out more about our plan to make homelessness rare, brief and one time in King County and to see how you can get involved, please visit our website, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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28 Comments
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jack
jack
5 years ago

More money, that’s all it needs, more money

Privilege
Privilege
5 years ago
Reply to  jack

And bike lanes.

Mike
Mike
5 years ago

Whenever the mention low property taxes they fail to account for the high sale taxes.

Considering that Seattle now has more renters than owners, almost any property tax levy will pass.

Making homes unaffordable to pay for affordable housing brilliant.

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
5 years ago

I’m curious….does Sawant live inside the city limits of Seattle? I heard before she doesn’t, but not sure if that’s true. Just wondering if every time she cavalierly calls for another $10 million here and there– will this be increasing her OWN property taxes, too?

Max
Max
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim98122x

Going with the hypocritical greedy rout on a Socialist? Not so much a winning strategy.

Timmy73
Timmy73
5 years ago

A 20% YoY increase in homelessness in Seattle is staggering. We need to find the root of what is driving this rapid increase and apply resources to slow or reduce the pace. Otherwise, we will just keep throwing money at a problem and that doesn’t really help the situation.

I understand, get them in housing then get them help. I’d like to see more efforts put into getting people help too.

It should also be an issue of the State, not just the City of Seattle.

CF
CF
5 years ago
Reply to  Timmy73

I’m with you Timmy. This shouldn’t been purely a Seattle issue. It’s a state and federal issue. I don’t mind paying a bit higher property taxes to help Seattle’s housing affordability and to provide extra beds for Seattle’s homeless. However, Seattle property owners shouldn’t alone have the burden of paying for the Auburn homeless, the Olympia homeless, and all of the others who come to Seattle just because Seattle provides more resources for them.

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
5 years ago
Reply to  CF

Exactly. In fact, it’s to the advantage of the other nearby cities to do nothing, as they expect Seattle to pick up the slack. The homeless are naturally drawn to the only place there are resources.

I’m so sick of seeing comments like this: “Seattle property taxes are high because our homes are worth so much, not because we’re being gouged by an excessively high rate”. My house isn’t an ATM or an annuity that cuts me a check every month because it goes up in value. Yeah, this is great that SOMEDAY my house will make me a lot of money (no, I’m not complaining), but only when I’m eventually forced out of it because I can’t afford the taxes anymore. So like Mike says above, you make my house un-affordable (to me) and force me out of it, to pay for affordable housing for someone else. Then we see articles like the other day about how we want to enable older people to “age in place” on Capitol Hill. You can’t do that when they’re not working, they’re on fixed incomes, and their house’s property taxes keep skyrocketing. When the time comes to retire, I’m sure I’ll be terrified to quit working for fear my taxes will eventually force me out of my house. Yeah, you eventually make lots of money, but only when you leave.

Brad
Brad
5 years ago
Reply to  CF

I’m sure the state’s attitude is why deal with it on a state level when Seattle will just keep taxing itself for services; which in turn will increase the number of people coming here.

poop
poop
5 years ago
Reply to  Brad

“Build it and they will come.”

harvey
harvey
5 years ago

Marie has been wheeling this is a state problem as well, but who is in the legislature for 20 years and did nothing? He is a political opportunist, his press conference was disgraceful, they’ve known about this jungle for 20 years and have done absolutely nothing.

harvey
harvey
5 years ago
Reply to  harvey

Whoops, sorry for the typos. Ed Murray has been wiailing about the state being involved and I would like to remind people he was in the legislature for 20 years and did not solve this problem. Also he had the gall to blame Ronald Ragan for this which is absolutely preposterous. The city has been watching the Jungle have rapes, fires, thefts and drug dealings for years and have done absolutely nothing. In his public statements he is angry at us, the citizens, for not doing enough. He complained if hehad to cut services to give more money to the homeless he would have to cut lots of city workers and parental leave. I say don’t extend the trolley and give that money to the homeless effort. Stop painting crosswalks with rainbow colors. Grew up Mr. Mayor.

bb
bb
5 years ago
Reply to  harvey

The Jungle has been around since the 1930’s.

CandrewB
CandrewB
5 years ago

Ugh, this effing guy. I can’t believe I used to feel bad for him.

Dave
Dave
5 years ago

This is so frustrating. I can’t keep quite any longer.

Seattle’s solution to everything is to shift responsibility to the people who are contributing community members. I pay my taxes, I have never committed a crime, I work and take accountability for my mistakes however the one time my house got broken into by a crackhead the police could not send anyone that evening due to resources being diverted elsewhere. Let’s continue to bleed dry the people who are actually contributing to give to people who do not care about the community or themselves.

Is it so much to ask if we are spending and taxing for more resources that maybe the homeless pick up after themselves rather than leaving trash scattered throughout the neighborhood. Or how bout NOT adding graffiti everywhere. Is it wrong to think that it would be nice to ask the homeless to contribute a little something back for what all the other tax payers are giving?

PriceMeOut
PriceMeOut
5 years ago

Wow it’s going up more!! I just got hit with a 41% increase last year that I’m going in to dispute. I can’t take much more there Mr. City

citycat
citycat
5 years ago

A 20% increase in homelessness is large; however, I would like to know how much of the increase is due to people coming from other parts of the state or country. I think Seattle has a reputation for not enforcing laws and for providing a lot of resources. That can be a draw for people. I remember reading an article about homelessness recently (I think it was in the Seattle Times) and the person featured was from out of state. She was quoted as saying something like, “I heard about Seattle being good and got money together and bought a Greyhound bus ticket and came up.” Reading that has stuck with me as the debate about homelessness continues. .

While addressing homelessness is important, we have to prioritize our resources before increasing taxes. We should give up things like rainbow crosswalks, bike tracks, free preschool, and paid family leave for city employees. Those are “nice to have’s” but they are not necessary. The funds used for those types of things could be used for affordable housing or shelters.

I do resent Mayor Murray’s attitude toward homeowners. He loves to talk about how our tax rate isn’t a burden but doesn’t understand that the overwhelming majority of us don’t have his enormous salary, incredible city health benefits, and generous retirement package. Of course the property taxes aren’t a burden for him. I also resent the fact that his recent speeches on homelessness take the tone that those concerned about increased taxes or increased crime in their neighborhoods are stingy and hysterical just because they have seen a report of crime on social media.

There is nothing worse than a condescending politician, and Murray excels at this annoying trait.

other cities need to step up
other cities need to step up
5 years ago
Reply to  citycat

I read the article you mention. The woman was from Florida… as far away from Seattle as you can be.

She said she the word on the street in FL was that in Seattle you camp all over the place, not be bothered by the police, and people would come and bring you food. These are her words, not mine.

She came to the seemingly most accommodating place for her unfortunate situation. It sucks to homeless in Seattle, but it is better than 99% of the other US cities.

She relocated 3,000 miles to live homeless here. Once here, with access to the service that are available, she kicked drugs and turned her life around. Her story seemed a true success story… except about the part how the citizens of Seattle had to deal with an issue from 3K miles away.

No matter how inadequate people feel homeless services are in Seattle, they are soooooo much better than 99.9% of the US that people are drawn her from not just the region, but the country.

Obviously we have a big and difficult situation to address here but there is a great degree of truth to “build it and they will come.” The article pointed out that Seattle was pretty much the only major city in the US doing anything substantial.

I believe for 2016 Seattle has allocated $1 out of every $100 in the entire city budget specifically to homeless services. We are indeed doing something, but the situation is not going to improve much for the homeless or the greater Seattle citizenry if homeless are persecuted basically everywhere.

Adam
Adam
5 years ago

Crime up, homelessness up, city projects late and over budget, and his only answer is more levies.

Ed is a disaster. Another one term mayor in the making.

JB
JB
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Crime is actually down. Homelessness and late projects are not Murray’s fault. However, he is trying to do something about it. Homelessness is a difficult and expensive problem. We might look to Salt Lake for a solution, but it will be expensive and slow.

RWK
RWK
5 years ago

I wish there was some actual data on the frequent remark that the homeless shelters are “always full.” I’m skeptical….perhaps during the coldest nights of the winter, but not every night. In my opinion, many homeless sleep outside (or in vehicles) because they can then continue to use drugs and alcohol, not because there are no shelter beds available.

Such data is critical to making the best decisions on how to spend the $50 million we allocate to homelessness. If the shelters are truly at capacity most of the time, we need to spend alot of it on more shelters. If that is not the case, then we need to spend most of it on ways to get people into the shelters, and things like addiction treatment programs, mental health care, job counseling, etc.

Jeremy
Jeremy
5 years ago

Can’t believe I voted for this man. Looking forward to the opportunity to vote for just about anyone else. Maybe someone a little more moderate and especially someone that has more of a backbone.

AR
AR
5 years ago

I’m going to be homeless if my property tax continues to go up.

Jerry98104
Jerry98104
5 years ago

I believe homeless housing was first pitched as transitional housing. That is, a safe place for folks to stabilize their lives and acquire whatever resources/skills needed to move on to independent living. I am curious as to what the turnover is in our social housing. Are we in fact helping folks become independent, or are we contributing to a permanent class of social housing residents? I believe that as a wealthy city, we who live here and work here can shoulder a bigger burden provided 1) our taxes are fixing the problem and not just making us feel good about ourselves and 2) that the cost is spread across the whole community and not just property owners. A novel idea; what if every rental apartment not currently rented by low income folks had a $250/year fee attached to it so that higher income renters also help property owners who are being taxed pay?

Vet
Vet
5 years ago

It’s called survival!
Yes….that’s exactly it. When all else fails in your life, use your lizard brain. Hunger, shelter, clothes etc, get it however possible. Once you find it become dependent on it, who cares what others think.

Lesson learned? Don’t feed the pigeons

Sarah
5 years ago

I am in a situation where I absolutely cannot afford more property
taxes. I am contemplating leaving. I feel like I am being punished
because I made a wise investment. I have an expensive house
but I am poor. I agree, stop painting the sidewalks, Mr. Murray,
and get your priorities in order.