Seattle council approves $29 million bond for affordable housing

SEATTLE — Seattle council members approved a 30-year, $29 million bond to spend on affordable housing.

The approval was part of the 2017 budget. Seven council members voted in favor; two voted against.

This bond comes in addition to the $290 million levy voters passed in August, for the purpose of affordable housing.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold proposed using funds from the North Seattle police precinct project for the first two years to pay the debt. That would mean $1.4 million from the precinct project would be used in 2017 and $1.9 million in 2018.

For the following years, Herbold suggested using tax revenue from new construction for this growth fund.

Once interest is paid in full, it will amount to about $56 million.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw supports the bond. “If you can pay in cash, that’s better than having to take out a mortgage. But sometimes, taking out a mortgage is much better than sleeping outside,” she said.

Bagshaw said she hopes to use this funding on immediate, transitional housing, but that she would be talking in coming months about alternative sources of funding rather than using this growth fund of construction revenue.

“There is I think a real opportunity and a chance that we’ll never touch that money for bonding,” she said.

Bagshaw said she would like to see this $29 million used for immediate transitional housing, like steel modular units that are coming to Columbia City next year.

That pilot project is privately funded and brings in steel pods that can house two people. The cost of each module is about $50,000 to $70,000.

Bagshaw also wants to see seismic retrofitting done to old buildings that, if brought up to code, could house people.

Yvette Dinish, a renter who came to the council meeting to voice her concerns, said that details have not been spelled out.

“There’s not a clear plan laid out – what are they going to do with the extra money? Well we need more housing, but how are we going to accomplish that?...They’re not putting this bond issue before the voters, to say, ‘Do we want this?’ It’s a 30-year bond issue,” Dinish said.

Long term general obligation bonds do not go to voters and can be issued by the council. The process would start in January.

While Mayor Ed Murray was opposed to this particular bond, he said he would sign this budget on Tuesday.

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