Seattle Mayor Ed Murray believes the city needs to double its spending on homelessness and he’s calling on the region’s business community to make that vision a reality.
Initially, Murray hoped comprehensive financial contributions from the federal government would help Seattle tackle its homelessness plight but now “we must face reality,” he said. “Developing a national housing and homelessness agenda is not a priority for the new president’s administration,” Murray said during his State of the City address Tuesday.
In lieu of a partnership with the feds, Murray is asking Seattle’s private sector to raise $25 million over the next five years for “disruptive innovations that will get more homeless individuals and families into housing.”
In addition, Murray announced that venture capitalist and activist Nick Hanauer is working with municipal officials to draft a plan to raise another $55 million per year through property taxes. The increase, Murray said, would be about $13 per month for the median household.
Hanauer is a vocal advocate of an increased minimum wage and corporate social responsibility. He shared his views on stage at the GeekWire Summit in 2015.
“Prosperity in human society is misunderstood,” he said. “The difference between a rich and poor society is the number of problems that society solves for its citizens. That means technological innovation is the source of all prosperity, but with every tech innovation, you also get disruption, ultimately social and civic disruption … People who want to lead tech advancement have a responsibility to ourselves and fellow citizens to innovate socially and civically at the same rate.”
According to Murray, Seattle’s population increased by 75,000 residents (12 percent) over the last 5 years. That growth is driven, partly, by the city’s booming tech economy. Job opportunity draws large numbers of high-paid tech workers to the region, driving up housing prices and the city’s cost of living. That can put pressure on the city’s lower-income residents. Murray wants the private sector to take accountability for their role in the city’s transformation.
“Our businesses, who are reaping the rewards of our booming city, must join our new public commitment and help those who are in need,” he said Tuesday.
Murray expressed his gratitude for local businesses that already give back during the speech. He cited a coalition of companies that has raised millions for Mary’s Place, a non-profit that provides resources to homeless women and families. He also thanked the Gates Foundation, among others, for partnering on his vision to improve education.
“But more must be done,” he said.