Seattle's social housing measure is likely to pass

As final ballots from the Feb. 14 special election roll in, 57% of voters are in favor of Initiative 135.

woman drops off her ballot

In a 2020 photo, Katie Scott of Rainier Valley drops her ballot off at the Rainier Community Center in Columbia City. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Seattle voters appear to be passing a ballot initiative that will establish a new affordable-housing agency for the city to experiment with publicly owned, mixed-income social housing.

After several days of counting, Initiative 135 was passing, with 57% of the votes in favor and 43% against after a Friday afternoon update. The initiative requires a simple majority to pass, and King County elections officials have counted most but not all votes collected in Tuesday’s election.

Supporters of the initiative say social housing gives the city another tool for addressing housing affordability for both middle-income and low-income residents. Those opposed say the new city agency will duplicate existing efforts, as well as take money from housing people who are poor or homeless.

The initiative will establish a new program at an estimated cost of $750,000 to the city of Seattle, not provide money to build or buy housing. But supporters are hopeful the city will put additional money into the effort. Social housing is an idea gaining popularity in other countries and in other states across the U.S.

I-135 will make way for apartments that house a broad range of income levels, up to people earning 120% of the area median income (currently about $144,000 for a family of four). The properties would be publicly owned permanently.

In general, existing subsidized housing in Seattle is available for people earning less than 80% of the area median income, and often targeted at people earning 60% or less.

Projects that inspired initiative sponsors include housing in Vienna, Austria, and Montgomery County, Maryland

The final ballot count will be certified on Feb. 24.

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