A PhD in economics has done little to help socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant understand her supposed subject of expertise. One example of Sawant’s ignorance came at a housing affordability committee hearing when the self-proclaimed socialist took on city consultant Kirk Kreagar on the best way to go about creating affordable housing options.
Sawant does not agree with providing tax rebates to private developers who build housing complexes affordable to lower-middle-class residents. Kreagar’s attempts to explain to Sawant how Seattle’s temporary property tax exemption to developers who keep the cost of a certain number of units low promotes affordable housing appeared to fall on deaf ears. Ignoring Kreager, Sawant proceeded to claim that the tax rebate program meant that “the working people are paying while the developers are getting a [giveaway].” How she arrived at that conclusion is anyone’s guess.
Sawant continued by asking, “Is it best practice in terms of making sure that people have affordable housing available to them? Everything I hear about the multifamily tax exemption program is that it’s not a good idea as far as ordinary people are concerned and that it’s a gift to developers.
Sawant, not one to give up the spotlight, cut-off Kreager’s attempt to inform her of the fact that much of Seattle’s affordable housing “wouldn’t get developed without the tax credit.” Rather she continued, “So you mean that private development would not happen without it. … We’re always being told that this is the framework, whatever the private developers are willing to develop, we have to put everything down in order to make that actually possible, and whether the outcome in the balance is beneficial to the thousands of households that need housing, that is not the value that is being used.”
If you’re confused, you aren’t alone. Rest assured this isn’t the first time (and it won’t be the last) Sawant has elicited that response. And, it all gets more confusing when you get all the facts. Publicola points out that, according to city data, the tax relief incentive that so horrifies Sawant “produced 2,563 affordable units over the last 12 years.” By contrast, the incentive zoning program Sawant prefers (a fee on developers for letting them build beyond zoning limits) has produced 616.