Answering another Seattle budget question: how much have we spent on housing?

I previously looked at how much the city of Seattle has planned to spend in total every year since 2005 – divided by Seattle populated and adjusted for inflation to 2017 dollars. Another question is to ask how different departments spending has changed in that time frame. The big topic right now is homelessness and housing. I pulled the adopted expenditures for three departments:

  • Health & Human Services. Note that this includes the education levy so it’s not all stuff you would think of as apply to the “topic” but it was easier to quickly copy and paste the numbers.
  • Office of Housing. This is what Seattle is spending on operations for subsidized housing and building and maintaining it.
  • Department of Planning & Development. This includes the department responsible for approving construction permits and doing inspections.

You can review my quickly assembled spreadsheet if you like. This graph seems to tell a pretty big story.

Graph of expenditures from spreadsheet linked previously

I look at this graph and note:

  • Expenditures are pretty flat overall.
  • We didn’t start spending on housing to address Seattle’s wildly increasing rents until 2016.
  • Knowing that the federal government cut way back on housing in 2010 onward, and rents and home prices started increasing wildly about then too, that basically flat OH line (solid red) is horrifying to me. I should try to find data on affordable housing units built or total housing units available to various income levels, year over year.
  • No wonder it takes forever to build anything. These are per capita spends, so flat is not necessarily bad, but there’s a fairly big dip in there plus if you want construction to go faster, maybe we should spend more money to speed up the process? (Or remove and simplify rules.)

As with the previous post, I will happily take comments, corrections or suggestions. This is just me doing what seems obvious and straightforward to start to understand the “shape” of the problem.

Top Ten Better Uses of Time and Money than Working to Repeal the Head Tax

There’s now a movement to repeal the tiny head tax passed by the Seattle City Council. Suddenly lots of folks are experts about how the city council could have just done something different and still somehow funded the massive number of homes we need to build in Seattle and King County in order to begin addressing homelessness for real and making homes affordable for all. Parts of the business community and local media have made this all about the minor costs of the tax and not the benefits.

But no one thinks the head tax was “the best” policy. In a better world, we’d have so many other options. In this one, there are almost no politically feasible ways to raise money to start investing in affordable homes, of which we need literally tens of thousands just to address immediate demand, never mind making it possible for less wealthy families to continue to live and work in Seattle.

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Property Tax in Washington: Why You So Weird

The Washington State property tax is one of the most complicated in the nation

That quote is from an overview provided by MRSC which helps local governments in Washington with legal and policy guidance. I knew it was complicated. I’m digging through the data the King County Assessor’s office provides so I can answer questions like “what is the average property tax paid for single family parcels in Seattle year over year?” To do that, I’m having to dig into various things including looking up the levy rates by year. I tweeted a bunch about it, but that’s not terribly useful to many people so here’s a blog dumping some stuff about it. Total accuracy and coherence not likely. 🙂

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