Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Seattle approves 'Amazon Tax' to alleviate city's affordable housing crisis

Protesters attend the Seattle City Council finance committee meeting Friday May 11. The committee voted 5-4 to reject Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal of a more modest tax on large employers to address the city’s homelessness crisis.(Steve Ringman  The Tensions Mount As Seattle Debates Business Tax For Homeless
Orlando Vargas | 15 May, 2018, 11:11

The City Council backed a compromise plan that will charge large businesses about $275 per full-time worker each year, lower than the $500 per worker initially proposed.

"P$3 ending the outcome of the head-tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning", a company spokesperson told The Seattle Times earlier this month.

Rapid economic growth in the city on the U.S. north west coast has led to high rents and a rise in homelessness. The Seattle region had the third-highest number of homeless people in the USA and saw 169 homeless deaths previous year.

A proposal to tax companies $500 per employee was being considered for several weeks but, after Mayor Jenny Durkan threatened to veto it, the council voted to reduce the size of the tax. It also was rethinking filling office space in another leased building. The move by the world's largest online retailer, owned by billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, put in question more than 7,000 new jobs.

"Taxing jobs will not fix our region's housing and homelessness problems", said Strickland, who went on to praise Durkan for her role in the compromise.

Mr. Hederner, the Amazon vice president, said sharp increases in the city of Seattle's revenues have outpaced the population growth of the city during the same period.

Proponents of the head tax say companies such as Amazon have contributed to homelessness because their highly-paid employees have driven up rents and home prices.

Homeless-services workers and unions representing supermarket and hotel workers, among others, supported the larger tax, which was proposed by Councilmembers Mosqueda, M. Lorena González, Lisa Herbold and Mike O'Brien.

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They voted as people packed the meeting, holding signs saying "People before profits" and chanting "housing is a human right".

The mayor of Seattle may make the final call on whether to risk furthering Amazon's wrath by imposing a tax on the city's biggest employers to help pay for the city's efforts to confront homelessness.

Amazon, the city's largest employer with 45,000 workers, would take the biggest hit. It would raise an estimated $44.7 million a year and expire after five years, according to the Council.

Underscoring Amazon's battle with its hometown is the company's search for a second headquarters in another North American city.

Proponents say people are dying on the streets, and while city-funded programs found homes for 3,400 people previous year, the problem deepens.

Outside of Seattle, King County's 2018 budget for homelessness spending was $66.9 million, which includes funding for emergency shelter, prevention, supportive housing, rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and other homeless housing programs and supportive services.

"I live in a little shed, but it's better than living in a tent or in a sleeping bag on the street", she said as she stood in line an hour before Monday's meeting began. Denver has enacted a similar tax, and Chicago had one but repealed it. Seattle itself had a head tax in effect from 2006 to 2009 but it was repealed to help businesses in the midst of the recession. "I'm confused about why the city of Seattle is fostering an adversarial relationship with businesses in this city".

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