Our Jewish traditions are deeply rooted in the concept of home. Our most beloved holidays center around the home, both literally and metaphorically. On Passover, we gather at home — not in the synagogue — to celebrate our release from Egypt and our hope of making a new home in a new land. On Sukkot, we erect simple outdoor huts to remind us that after we left Egypt, we wandered homeless in the wilderness and made shelter of what we could find. When we celebrate Shabbat, whether we observe a whole day or share an evening meal, we distinguish between the outside world of work and worry, and the home world of family, security, and togetherness.
We don’t confine this traditional yearning for home to our own houses. Through thousands of years, we have brought warmth, comfort, and a sense of belonging into our synagogues, settlement houses, schools, and community centers. We joyfully welcome the strangers in our midst and strengthen those in need by giving them assistance, as Maimonides urged. That assistance often involves helping people to regain independence and create or re-create their own homes.
This fall, our Jewish community has an especially important opportunity to put into practice our traditions and help others secure the blessings of home. We can act on our common belief that everyone deserves the safety and stability of a home by supporting Proposition 1, which will renew Seattle’s housing levy. We will be joining many other Seattle residents of various religious and secular traditions who care about making our city home for everyone.
Seattle voters first passed a housing levy in 1981. Since then, Seattleites have voted to renew the levy four times. This November’s Proposition 1 will renew the expiring levy, bringing in $145 million over the next seven years, and will cost a typical Seattle homeowner only $5.50 a month, or $65 a year. This modest property tax has produced great results since 1981. Over 28 years, the levy has:
Funded 10,000 affordable housing units for seniors, families with children, and low-wage workers
Provided rental assistance to people on the brink of homelessness
Helped extend loans to 600 first-time, moderate-income homebuyers
Dedicated funds to repair and maintain existing low-income housing.
We may not think of it this way, but most of us have lived in subsidized housing at some point in our lives. Perhaps we’ve lived in a college dorm, or military housing, or a relative’s basement. If we are homeowners, we take a federal mortgage interest deduction.
Through Proposition 1, we can extend that same privilege to our neighbors and community members who might otherwise be without homes. In the current economic crisis, it is especially important to renew the levy in order to keep Seattle from becoming a city divided between those who have the resources to both live and work here, and those who work here but can’t afford to call it home.
Over the next seven years, a renewed levy will:
Build or preserve 1,850 affordable homes that will serve thousands of households over 50 years
Prevent homelessness for more than 3,000 families and individuals
Create hundreds of jobs and leverage millions of additional state and federal dollars to build and rehabilitate housing in Seattle.
Fixed-income seniors, minimum-wage workers, people with disabilities, veterans, and those emerging from domestic violence or homelessness will be housed through levy programs. This renewal is primarily designed to help Seattleites whose income is less than a third of local median income. In a city where the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,200 a month, levy resources will help a family of three living on $1,895 or less afford housing and be able to cover groceries, childcare, transportation, utilities, and insurance.
In Leviticus 19 we are told: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.”
We share our harvest in many ways. We grapple during High Holy Days with our responsibilities to one another. We make collective and individual commitments each year to advance a more just and whole world. This fall, let us celebrate the new year by practicing the Jewish tradition of sharing the harvest with those who have less. Support Proposition 1: Yes for Homes! On behalf of all who will be helped by this sharing, thank you.
For more information about Yes for Homes! Proposition 1 to renew the Seattle Housing Levy, please contact Tera Bianchi, Campaign Manager, at 206-954-4663 or visit www.yesforhomes.org.