More workforce and low-income housing

Housing costs have been on my mind lately. A Seattle P-I story today said Seattle house values at lowest since ’06 and the Seattle Times reports Home sales dive in King County, but prices don’t, showing that housing costs are still a stretch or completely out of reach for many people in our region.

I was pleased that on Monday the council adopted my expansion of the King County Credit Enhancement Program. We added $100 million in additional credit to create more workforce and low-income housing by leveraging King County’s credit rating to reduce financing costs for housing developments. In exchange for lower financing costs, developers or project owners agree to include affordable housing units in their project. This is the first major milestone of my Equity and Social Justice Initiative and I appreciate the council’s support.

Over the next five years, this will help develop or preserve about 500 to 800 affordable units in several different housing developments countywide. It helps, but I’m working with the county council and community housing partners to do more.

It may seem counter-intuitive with the grim economic news we read each day, but the low interest rates and high housing inventory actually make this a good time to buy a home for many people. Over the coming months, King County is going to be partnering with builders, realtors and others to educate people about the home buying process and its many benefits.

We want on-going efforts to make sure people at all income levels can afford to live in our beautiful region.

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2 responses to “More workforce and low-income housing

  1. I think the additional help you are providing for housing opportunities is incredibly important. I understand the basics of how home ownership and taxes keep our revenue afloat. However, I’m also a KC employee who will probably be laid off (again, although I have 8 years with KC) before Jan 1st. I’m also a homeowner. I lose my job, you lose your taxes because I will lose the house and you get to try and find another person to buy the home for less money. Not just me, but I anticipate many others just in District Court. So if KCDC has to find $2.1 million dollars before the end of the summer, which WILL result in many losing their jobs (homes), why not help in other areas also? Can $2.1 of that $100 million be shared? Just curious because ultimately the County will not be “saving” any money by contributing to unemployment rates and potentially the horrendous housing market that we’re blaming for our current situation. It makes no sense to me.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You raise valid points: the budget shortfall King County government is facing is the same one being felt by residents across the area, including county employees.

    One clarification though: we can’t share $2.1 million of the $100 million you referenced because it is not cash in hand, it is additional credit available to developers based on leveraging King County’s credit rating. So for example, when a developer has a project that they will borrow money to build, by partnering with King County, they might be able to borrow a little more or borrow it at a cheaper rate (that’s the credit enhancement) and use the additional amount to cover the cost of adding some affordable housing units (which they make less money on) to the project.

    We have a difficult budget process this year and our goals will be to balance the budget while continuing to provide services residents depend on from King County in a more cost-effective way. That will require difficult cuts in some areas, but we have resources to help employees who are affected, including retraining and re-employment programs. We will also be working with all of our County unions as we go through the budget process and will make every effort to offset the impacts on employees as much as possible. I know uncertainty about your job can be upsetting and stressful, especially in your case after several years here. As we move through the process, we will keep communication flowing so employees can make timely, informed decisions about their future. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. – Ron

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