New Seattle, King County collaboration on homelessness, with $68m/year county sales tax instead of $55m/year city property tax

(King County photo: County Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles, speaking, and Claudia Balducci, with McDermott, Constantine, and Murray)
Elected officials including King County Executive Dow Constantine, Mayor Ed Murray, and County Council Chair Joe McDermott have just announced a new regional collaboration on homelessness. As part of it, the mayor is dropping his proposal to ask Seattle voters for a property-tax increase to raise more money for homelessness-related efforts, and instead, county voters will be asked next year to approve a one-tenth-of-one-percent sales-tax increase. Here’s the full announcement, published as a city news release:

Today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced a new regional effort to help people experiencing homelessness receive services and access to a permanent home.

Along with city leaders, service providers and All Home, Mayor Murray and Executive Constantine will convene a joint task force to assess needs and resources, and propose a strategy that will get people living unsheltered into permanent homes, keep people in their homes and out of homelessness, and coordinate responses to root causes such as behavioral and mental health and substance use disorders. The scope of the effort reflects the reality that homelessness is a regional crisis, and presents an opportunity for a robust, coordinated response.

The effort would be funded by a 0.1 percent sales tax increase that would go to King County voters in 2018. Seattle, King County and other jurisdictions have been working together closely to address this regional crisis, creating a more coordinated system that focuses on the individual needs of people living outside and that uses a data-driven approach to ensure programs are accomplishing the goal of getting more people into permanent housing. Today’s announcement will lead to increased coordination and accountability, while the City of Seattle continues its work to address other impacts, such as increased trash and needle cleanup.

This region-wide, $68 million per year funding package would replace the previously-proposed, Seattle-only property tax levy.

“Homelessness is a regional and national issue, which is why we’ve always worked closely with King County to help people get access to services and housing,” said Mayor Murray. “We came together to have national experts review our service system and have seen progress implementing their recommendations. But we need to accelerate and intensify that effort, to move more people inside faster, get people on the pathway to a permanent home and ensure people experiencing homelessness can access the services they need. This path is an opportunity to make a more dramatic impact with our partners and to show accountability to the public before we move forward.”

“Homelessness is a regional challenge that heeds no boundaries. Our approach is to work with partners in all of the region’s cities to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time,” said Executive Constantine. “We will develop a comprehensive proposal, with the right people around the table – including our dedicated housing and homelessness service providers and the community. We all feel concern for those who are unsheltered, and we know the urgency of the task before us: to ensure everyone has a place to call home.”

Homelessness is a region-wide crisis, with significant increases across King County over the last two years. Housing affordability, a major cause of homelessness according to the recent needs assessment, is a major challenge in Seattle and King County, with every $100 increase in rent associated with a 15 percent increase in homelessness in urban areas and a 39 percent increase in rural and suburban areas.

Cities and King County each contribute to addressing the crisis based on specific government functions and available funding. Both King County and Seattle make significant investments in homeless crisis response services and affordable housing with the federal, state and local funds they administer. Seattle and King County work to ensure coordinated deployment of these resources, plugging in the right funding for the right programs at the right times.

The City and County have already seen successes.

Seattle launched the Navigation Team, a team of outreach workers and specially trained police officers who connect with people living unsheltered and offer services and alternative shelter. Early results are promising – nearly 60 percent of people engaged by the Navigation Team have accepted services compared to less than 5 percent previously. This includes 85 people who left unsafe unauthorized encampments to stay in shelter, at authorized encampments, in a motel or have reconnected with family.

Between King County and Seattle, the City’s Navigation Center and 5 additional 24/7 new enhanced emergency shelters are in process (2 in Seattle, 1 in Bellevue, 1 in Kirkland and 1 in Kenmore). One recently opened for families in White Center.

King County, Seattle, and United Way have agreed to use common performance metrics in contracting for homelessness services, with a primary focus on exits to permanent housing. United Way and King County have both completed their first RFP using these agreed upon metrics. Seattle will do so later this year.

Seattle has led the implementation of the “By Name List” practice in partnership with King County and service providers to address the housing needs of 200 people residing for in shelter for extremely long periods of time. After 5 weeks of effort, 14 individuals have moved out of shelter and into permanent housing, freeing up shelter beds that will serve 70 people over the next year. The By Name List efforts for Veterans, Families with Children and Youth/Young Adults are also underway.

King County has brought 46 new inpatient mental health treatment beds online since August 2016 and will bring another 46 on line by 2017.

King County, All Home and the City of Seattle have reduced barriers that impeded access to housing programs. Prior to these efforts, there were 105 distinct screening criteria that precluded many from accessing the programs that were supposed to help. Now, there are only 5 core criteria and none related to eviction history.

As part of this announcement, a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between King County Department of Community and Human Services, Seattle Human Services Department and Seattle Office of Housing, will further align investments and the group will report on progress by the end of this year.

In the coming weeks, Mayor Murray will send legislation to the City Council to create an expert review panel to oversee and monitor City work on homelessness, to ensure the City is making progress toward the goals laid out in Pathways Home, and so the public can see that progress.

Today’s announcement will accelerate this work by helping ensure the system is more inclusive to those who need services and housing, and will significantly increase housing options, whether short-, medium-, or long-term. Offering these options and tying them to needed services helps get more people through to permanent housing quickly.

The citywide tax that the mayor has scrapped was supposed to get on the ballot via petition signatures rather than going through the council.

55 Replies to "New Seattle, King County collaboration on homelessness, with $68m/year county sales tax instead of $55m/year city property tax"

  • West Seattle Hipster April 3, 2017 (2:13 pm)

    Voting “no” on that one too.  Throwing taxpayer dollars at the issue hasn’t worked before (remember the “10 Year Plan To End Homelessness”?).   Why would this plan work better than previous plans?

    Perhaps this his region is just too expensive for some folks to live in.

    • John April 3, 2017 (3:35 pm)

      I totally agree Hipster!  I would love to live on Queen Anne, Magnusson Park or Magnolia.   You know what?…I can’t afford those places so I went where I could afford.  Will the City get me into one of those three places I’d like to live?  Probably not!


      • Dave April 3, 2017 (5:37 pm)

        This is how I feel too and what I’ve said all along. It’s like people keep voting yes without knowing how much it will cost them (ie ST3) or what the initiatives even really mean. Before you vote yes, read and think!

    • Paul Binder April 3, 2017 (3:52 pm)

      The 10 year plan was first good, but the main problem was there was no money available to run or operate facilities that could be built with the money that was available back then.  I sat in on a presentation about the funds because an agency I was involved with, non-profit, was looking at building a residence.  We determined we could build a great facility, but there was no money to operate that facility, so we canned the idea.

      • TheKing April 3, 2017 (6:09 pm)

        They keep making Seattle more expensive to live while denouncing any actions of Trump. What they’re doing is Trump-esque. Wait til the municipal state income tax gem gets rolled out. Greedy greedy greedy, mine mine mine 

    • West Seattle since 1979 April 3, 2017 (6:44 pm)

      I don’t agree that people should be priced out of an entire region, when the jobs are in that region. I don’t think people should have to commute here from Eastern Washington! However, seems like a regressive sales tax will just add to the unaffordability problem. 

    • B.W. April 3, 2017 (8:54 pm)

      With you, definitely “No” vote.  

  • AMD April 3, 2017 (2:30 pm)

    I am glad to see the city and the county working together on this.  There seems to be a pervasive idea that homelessness is an issue that begins and ends at the Seattle city line, which is not at all the experience of those living in the unincorporated and suburban areas of the county (as well as other parts of the state).  I look forward to looking for more regional solutions for this regional problem.

  • millie April 3, 2017 (2:54 pm)

    I’m trying to understand why our elected officials continue to ignore consultant reports (paid for by taxpayers) on how to approach the homeless crisis.  We also have a City “Homeless Czar” appointed by the Mayor supposedly working on this issue.  Millions of dollars are being spent addressing the homeless crisis in Seattle/King County and, yet, the situation continues to escalate.   I will vote NO on a regressive sales tax proposal, as well as, NO on any more property tax proposals.  Until our elected officials actually come up with a solution for this problem – I will continue to vote NO!!!!

  • The Truth April 3, 2017 (3:36 pm)

    This is the first time I have truly heard them talk about root cause which makes me have a little hope.  

    That being said I will still vote no based on zero past results and using regressive sales tax as the lever.  This tax would put us 10.2% which is the second highest in the country.  Yes this would be funding the homeless by over taxing the working poor and working class.  This will also negatively impact the already high cost of living.  Just 5 days ago the sales tax was 9.6, now 10.1 if this happens, 10.2%.  Add on that Seattle soda sugar tax and the state level sugar tax we are just slowly giving our income away to the government.  When do we start demanding results for our money and accountability from our leaders.  We voted to end homelessness 10 years ago and we paid the taxes for it.  What we have now is an epidemic with no systems in place to fix it.  How does that happen after a ton of money and 10 years to figure it out???  I bet that 3.2 million we spent on Pronto might have helped some people.  I know Sound Transit is seperate from King County but when Dow spent 900k plus on a capital hill station opening party I don’t trust him as a steward of my money.  ST or KC, don’t trust this money will go where it is needed and I am not sure it is needed anyway.  Prove the current money is being spent efficiently and then we can talk.

    • KT April 3, 2017 (3:49 pm)

      Actually, if Chairman Dow gets his Levy for the Arts sales tax increase then adding this will give us a 10.3% sales tax.  

    • The Dave April 3, 2017 (5:25 pm)

      Agree. Stories like these are so superficial. Those 10 years of homeless relief taxes are public record and could be a story or scandal to themselves, but that doesn’t get reported. 

      • Steve April 3, 2017 (6:39 pm)

        It would be nice to see a full accounting of the funds spent in the ten year plan.  I bet it would be disturbing.

    • Andy April 4, 2017 (6:12 am)

      Vote these career politicians out of office!

  • SGG April 3, 2017 (3:37 pm)

    The sales tax is already now over 10 percent!  You can’t keep going to the same well every time you get a good idea.

  • Raye April 3, 2017 (3:58 pm)

    I guess the polls were showing that the property tax plan was extremely unpopular! But the sales tax increase is almost as bad. Enough is enough! How much is the homeless “Czar” being paid, and what has he accomplished with all the funding so far? I see his salary is about $135,000, which is not outrageous, but really, what are the genuine results? 

    • D Del Rio April 4, 2017 (12:56 pm)

      I disagree, 135,000 is outrageous. This person deserves a big fat 0! 

  • Tom April 3, 2017 (4:01 pm)

    The Mayor didn’t change to a sales tax,because his 275 million property tax proposal is doing great.He’s realized it was going to fail.We need to keep the pressure on both the Mayor and the County Exec..To live with the money they have already have gotten.I will vote no on any homeless tax .

  • wetone April 3, 2017 (4:26 pm)

    Very possible we could end up paying both property and sales tax increases the way Mayor Patchwork Murray and Dow Constantine are going about this, watch out folks.  Most likely will also get stuck  paying one way or another for cost overruns from tunnel project. If people think Seattle is expensive place to live now just wait 3 more years…. and they wonder why rents keep rising…… 

    • TheKing April 3, 2017 (8:06 pm)

      You are right, homeowners will probably end up on the hook for the 233 million cost overruns on the tunnel. The cost to travel through the tunnel should be $74.99 each way in off peak hours and $149.99 during peak as a reminder the tunnel was a mistake 

  • ChannelingLewisBlack April 3, 2017 (4:43 pm)

    Keep regressing there Ed…

  • Brad April 3, 2017 (5:01 pm)

    Enough tax increases! Where does it end? If I have my count right we have had 9 tax increases in the last three years. Now they want more! Have you gotten your property tax bill yet. If not you will be in for a surprise. And don’t forget all of you that voted for ST3 – you get to pay double for your car tabs. The city commissioned a homeless professional to study our problem last year – she said more money was not the answer. This city needs to take a hard look at how it is spending our tax money. Maybe we can cut out some bike lanes, cancel a few road diets, put a hold on spending 17 million to make Fauntleroy Way look pretty and cut some bloated city administrators salaries before you come asking for more of my money.


  • Orca April 3, 2017 (5:20 pm)

    This is simply a failure of the Mayor and the council members to lead and manage.

    The problem of garbage and human waste continues to spread across our city.    The health issue from human waste is never discussed in the media or by the city.  There is absolutely no toilet facilities at any of the camps..except a couple of authorized ones.

    All of that human waste is simply in the open on public property.  The danger to public health is simply outrageous.  

  • The Dave April 3, 2017 (5:24 pm)

    We Seattleites love more taxes. Why not 0.5 more? 

    • Joel April 4, 2017 (6:57 am)

      why not 100 million?……if it’s seattle it’ll pass – why go for silver when you can get gold with zero effort?

       and where is the 6 figure city director of homelessness at? 

  • flimflam April 3, 2017 (5:24 pm)

    ed does not look pleased in that photo.

    also, why $55mil in property tax yet 68mil in sales tax?

    • WSB April 3, 2017 (5:33 pm)

      Countywide vs. citywide.

  • Rick in the Park April 3, 2017 (5:27 pm)

    While our mayor is encouraging homeless people to move here from all over the country’ he is making it harder and harder for the property owners  to afford their own property. Let’s have them move in with the mayor, see how he likes it. Personally, I am getting tired of picking up after them in our parks and green spaces.

  • Dave April 3, 2017 (5:47 pm)

    I remember when Seattle had a homeless problem in the 90s. Worse today of course but how is it this city has such problems with homelessness, decade after decade. Tax and spend is not working. Hello!

  • GOP in WS April 3, 2017 (6:24 pm)

    I suffering from sales tax fatigue. I’m voting No.

  • Archie April 3, 2017 (6:29 pm)

    Will the new funding help to mitigate the problems caused by the current homeless population or will it just subsidize more of them?

  • JRR April 3, 2017 (6:33 pm)

    Corporate taxes sure are low here. How about some of those instead?

  • M April 3, 2017 (6:37 pm)

    I will be voting No on a homeless tax, but voting YES on the arts access tax proposals. It’s about time we start focusing on our local youth, enrich their lives to prevent the next generation of homeless. 

  • Canton April 3, 2017 (7:06 pm)

    How bout a luxury tax, on high end items like designer bags, shoes, and $100 jeans? You know, the things the regular working folks can’t afford.

    • Swede. April 4, 2017 (6:17 am)

      That will never happen. Goes against the basics of capitalism and especially Washington state regressive taxes. 

      Take from the poor and give to the rich. 

      In this case let’s take from the struggling ‘medium rich’ and give to the already broke. Which won’t work. It will likely increse homeless population here. Like pointed out by many others in the thread, the former efforts haven’t done much at all…

  • TreeHouse April 3, 2017 (7:09 pm)

    We need a state income tax, not more regressive sales and property taxes. 

    • GAnative April 3, 2017 (11:27 pm)

      A state income tax isn’t going to make the sales and property taxes go away.  It will just be another tax to pay.   The city/state want more money not less. 

  • Double Dub Resident April 3, 2017 (7:30 pm)

    Guarantee that if this asinine tax goes through it will change nothing. The money will just get lost in the belly of the Seattle beast. As someone already said, tax payers already threw a ton of money at consultants who told the city how to approach this and they basically ignored it. 

    We have a supposed homeless czar making 160,000 dollars annually and nothing to show for it. This joke of a mayor has also said that there’ll be oversight committees overseeing spending, which in city worker terms means bloated salaries, red tape, and wasted money just on that. 

    And those that think getting more drug treatment facilities is going to solve this issue, they’re extremely naive as drug treatment facilities have an abysmal success rate, which is even worse when forced “treatment” is enforced. 

  • Maggie April 3, 2017 (8:22 pm)

    It’s hard to vote yes for this when we’ve seen so little change after years of investing in homelessness, which leads me to believe that it’s not funding that’s the issue but a lack of good leadership. I voted for Murray and I want to have faith but this ask comes on the same week that the Pronto Bike program is being physically dismantled. If city leaders can’t manage a $2.2M program, how do they expect us to trust them to spend $500M that is estimated to be raised by this tax? When Mayor Murray declared homelessness a state of emergency I expected action, transparency and increased communication with Seattle residents. In a state of emergency we would be receiving regular updates on progress via tv, radio, social media from Murray or his team. I have not heard one word from the homelessness czar. Where is Scarola’s plan? How is the budget being spent? Where are the results from the millions already invested? Before you your weary neighbors who are being nickel and dime to death in one of the most expensive cities in the country to give you more of their hard-earned money, maybe answer these questions. 

  • Wsres April 3, 2017 (9:46 pm)


  • New Thinking Needed April 3, 2017 (9:50 pm)

    Take that Nick Hanuaer who threw down the property tax increase proposal – in his words.  You have millions! how about you purchase and set up an official city sanctioned campground. 

    By the way, I want Danny Westneat to get my democracy vouchers because he seems sane and logical.  Wish he would run for city council!

    • Andy April 4, 2017 (6:43 am)

      Nick Hanaurer doesn’t even live within the  Seattle city limits, yet he proposes more taxes for us?

  • WS Guy April 3, 2017 (10:04 pm)

    This one is easy too.  No.

    Plus one vote each against Murray and Gonzalez for good measure. 

  • bolo April 3, 2017 (10:15 pm)

    This story describes the homeless problem as a “regional” issue or crisis six times. While that is a step in the right direction, one could make the argument that it is a national problem, if not a worldwide problem.

    I say it’s a result of continuing growing worldwide income inequality. Taken to its end, we will ultimately end up with a few sprawling mansion compounds, and the rest tent cities.

    • WSB April 3, 2017 (10:26 pm)

      Most of the story is, as described, the city’s announcement, so the word is mostly theirs but where it’s mine, the intent was that they were not calling it JUST a regional situation but that they are collaborating for a regional strategy. We’ve added links to discussions here before, for those who somehow think it’s just a Seattle (and vicinity) problem … it very clearly is not. We don’t get to leave town much but we were in Boston last December and Portland in January, both places seeing people sleeping outdoors, unsheltered, not even tents, in the downtown areas. And not just a person here and a person there.

  • GetaLifeCrooks April 3, 2017 (10:21 pm)


  • GAnative April 3, 2017 (11:23 pm)

    NO. And NO to whatever tax they come up with for Seattlites to pay for the tunnel cost overruns. According to King5 that was Murray’s idea too. And NO to Murray next time around. 

  • seares April 4, 2017 (3:15 am)

    Voting NO on any new taxes, until they can account for all the money they have thrown at all these problems with no real results.

  • JoB April 4, 2017 (6:17 am)

    show me the housing proposals and tie the funds directly and exclusively to those proposals..
    then.. i might vote yes..
    but another poster i prefer a luxury tax…

  • Sunuva April 4, 2017 (7:10 am)

    This will get a big NO from me! I’m in agreement with all the above posters that we need accountability for the money we keep giving our local governments to solve these problems AND we need to stop these regressive taxes that hurt the poor and middle class. It is beyond time for a state income tax!

    • Joel April 4, 2017 (7:27 am)

      if state income tax…does one of the highest gas taxes in the country get lowered….do the crazy car tab fees get lowered…does our 10.1% and climbing sales tax go down?  

      with an expanding Seattle population, homes and buildings going up everywhere and full employment at 5% the city and the state should be plush in money and have a huge rainy day fund built up.

      crazy home prices mean crazy excise taxes when these homes are sold – what are they doing with that money?

  • LikeAGoodNeighbor April 4, 2017 (8:03 am)

    It is so difficult to see people in our city struggle with homelessness, addiction, mental illness – but it’s also clear that enabling our elected officials with more money isn’t the path forward. Voting no until there’s a plan that has been tested, is scalable, and is sustainable.

  • Eman April 4, 2017 (10:15 am)

    Hello all…we’re voting “YES” to leave this failing City, so sad.  The misuse of tax dollars in this town is astounding, how do the voters keep allowing this to happen? Anyway, time for some good news…Bertha breaks out of it’s tunnel today, years behind schedule and way over budget.  But it’ll totally bypass your ability to get downtown (35,000 cars a day) and will make for a traffic nightmare on 1st and 4th and 6th. But, just think what nice campgrounds our homeless population will have now.  Oh yeah and the tunnel will be tolled as well.



    P.S. T minus 10 days until we blast off! 

  • ETR April 4, 2017 (12:05 pm)

    This won’t work and only hurts the lower class even more.  It won’t get my vote.  TAX THE RICH!! 

  • Frustrated April 8, 2017 (11:31 am)

    We have a mayor problem first. He’s all over the place. Get rid of him

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