Last week we heard about the Seattle City Council’s plan to ease the affordable housing and homelessness situation. The plan is to impose a tax of 26 cents per hour per employee affecting 3% of Seattle’s largest businesses. $20M of the $75M they plan to raise with this tax will come from Amazon alone, so it’s not surprising Amazon has reacted quickly by halting construction of their new downtown tower, which puts 7,000 jobs in jeopardy. Over 131 other businesses have also objected in a letter sent to the city council stating it doesn’t make sense to punish the companies bringing more jobs to the region.
I think this quote from the letter sums it up nicely.
“This is like telling a classroom that the students who do the most homework will be singled out for detention.”
Blaming the lack of affordable housing on these businesses is just unfair. The reality is that we live in a geographically closed-off area with mountains on one side and water on the other. Land is scarce. The land we have that we can build on is only increasing in value. In addition, the costs of materials are constantly rising, as are labor costs; not to mention there are the unbelievably onerous development costs placed on builders and developers. The end result is stratospheric prices.
Initiatives like “head taxes” end up driving out employers, their employees and all of the related industries major companies employ.
What could be some other solutions?
- Ease the restrictions placed on condo developers
- Repeal and replace the Growth Management Act
- Expand and change the urban growth boundaries