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.