• With head tax dead, where will money come from to help the homeless?

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - As the Seattle City Council repealed a tax Tuesday on the city's biggest businesses that would have raised $47 million, advocates for the homeless stood outside City Hall and rang a gong more than 6,000 times for every person counted sleeping on the streets.

    It's a reminder that the crisis continues.

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    ​"We would love to build hundreds more units," said Sharon Lee of the Low Income Housing Institute.

    Disappointed by the sudden repeal of the head tax, Lee is now looking for funding help from King County Executive Dow Constantine.

    He has proposed spending up to $190 million of the county's hotel-motel tax revenue to pay for upgrades to Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.

    "Why are we taking taxpayer money that could be used for affordable housing and we're instead giving it away to a private owner?" Lee asked.

    Constantine told KIRO 7 that starting in 2021, more than a third of the hotel-motel tax revenue will go for affordable housing, but diverting the 25 percent now designated for the stadium would need the Legislature's approval.

    "The argument that this can be used for homeless services is simply incorrect. Under the statute it cannot be used for those purposes," Constantine said.

    Constantine said lodging taxes still hold a lot of potential for funding affordable housing, even with money for Safeco Field.

    The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce helped fight the head tax, supporting the effort that collected more than 45,000 signatures to put a repeal on the ballot.

    When asked what the business community will now do to help, Strickland cited support for zoning changes to build more affordable housing, philanthropic giving by companies, and looking for ways to employ more people who are homeless.

    "We already have members working with vulnerable populations to give them a second chance but the question is, can we do more?" Strickland said.

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