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.