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Seattle Reaches Compromise on Controversial Tax for Affordable Housing

The Seattle City Council, prompted by pressure from Mayor Jenny Durkan, approved a smaller version of the "Head Tax" that provoked the ire of Amazon.
May 15, 2018, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Seattle, Washington
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"On Monday, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an amended version of the Employee Hours 'Head' Tax built on a compromise with Mayor Jenny Durkan that lowered the cost per full time employee from $500 to $275," reports Doug Trumm.

With $28.7 million per year on average for affordable housing creation, Council Staff project the head tax will create 591 new homes for people below 30% of area median income. That works out to approximately $242,600 per unit. An additional $12.5 million over the last three years of the head tax will support the operation another 302 existing deeply-affordable homes. In essence, the head tax is like having another housing levy, but not funded through property taxes.

The new tax created controversy earlier in May, when Amazon ceased planning the Block 18 project to signal its displeasure with the proposition. After the amended version of the new tax passed through City Council, Amazon announced it would resume planning for Block 18, but has remained undecided about the fate of the Rainier Skyscraper project already under construction (the company might decide to sublease some or all of the space rather than fill it with Amazon employees).

Matt Day reports in detail on Amazon's reaction to the news of the Head Tax passing through the City Council, including publication of this statement by Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener: "While we have resumed construction planning for Block 18, we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here."

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Published on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 in The Urbanist
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