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.

2 minute read

May 15, 2018, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Seattle, Washington

VDB Photos / Shutterstock

"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."

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 in The Urbanist

stack of books

Planetizen’s Top Planning Books of 2023

The world is changing, and planning with it.

November 24, 2023 - Planetizen Team

Close-up of 'Red Line Subway Entry' sign with Braille below and train logo above text in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Red Line Extension Could Transform the South Side

The city’s transit agency is undertaking its biggest expansion ever to finally bring rail to the South Side.

November 24, 2023 - The Architect's Newspaper

Diagram of visibility at urban intersection.

How ‘Daylighting’ Intersections Can Save Lives

Eliminating visual obstructions can make intersections safer for all users.

November 27, 2023 - Strong Towns

People walking on paved path in green city park with trees and tall city skyscrapers in background.

Green Spaces Benefit Neighborhoods—When Residents can Reach Them

A study comparing green space and walkability scores found that, without effective access to local parks, residents of greener neighborhoods don’t reap the health benefits.

December 3 - American Heart Association News

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3 - NBC 16

White, blue, and red Chicago transit bus at an urban bus station with shelter.

Chicago Announces ‘Better Streets for Buses’ Plan

The plan establishes a ‘toolkit’ of improvements to make the bus riding experience more reliable, comfortable, and accessible.

December 3 - City of Chicago

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.