Opinion: Does Seattle City Council Actually Want Affordability?

Image provided by Plymouth Housing Group

Listening to City Council members’ rhetoric you might think they want cheaper housing. But do most of them, really?

The Council has done nothing about accessory units, which would be helpful to both homeowners and accessory-unit residents. They actually outlawed most of the smaller micro housing options, which used to allow unsubsidized construction affordable at the low-middle range. Land that can be redeveloped into multifamily housing or mixed-use is getting scarcer, with skyrocketing prices, because a small fraction of the city allows anything but houses. The Council hasn’t done much about that either.

Other than limit parking requirements (kudos for that), we seem to be going backward.

There’s a theme here. The Council is doing what’s popular and fits a narrative, not what’s effective.

Now they’re looking at a head tax on jobs. Isn’t it convenient that voters won’t pay anything, at least not directly? Only big bad employers.

Techs are other big companies are the lifeblood of our local economy, bringing new money in from elsewhere. The rest of us — contractors, hospitals, bakeries — mostly shuffle money that was already local. The head tax avoids small businesses but look where their money comes from. The Council seems intent on shrinking the tax base that already supports the same good things.

More money is needed for housing and human services, but we should all share the burden, in a way that doesn’t create its own headwinds for the intended causes. If the cost can’t be spread nationally or statewide, at least Seattle’s tax can make sense. For example a property tax.

A fair tax would probably pass an election. But that would be scary for the Council, and they wouldn’t be seen sticking it to big business. Maybe an affordable future isn’t as important as job security (for them, not us) and an image.

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