Build 1,000 Homes Coalition Wins $29 Million for Affordable Housing!

Dear fellow housing justices advocates,

Congratulations to you all! Our affordable housing movement scored a major victory yesterday! We forced the City Council to approve $29 million for affordable housing in the 2017-2018 Seattle budget. 

Let’s be clear: We won this because we built our Coalition and a movement. We made it impossible for corporate Democratic politicians to ignore our proposal to Build 1,000 Homes by getting over 70 organizations and hundreds of activists to join the Coalition. We made hundreds of calls to Councilmembers, held rallies, collected signatures, and postered all over town. Coalition members held press conferences, shared Facebook posts, did standouts on overpasses and street corners, passed resolutions in Legislative Districts, and personally met with Councilmembers.

Because of your hard work, because we got organized and fought, City Councilmembers were forced to concede even though most of them were loath to do so. This is a major victory!

We should all thank Councilmember O’Brien and his staff for their solidarity, and let our friends and co-workers who followed the campaign know: The rest of the Council voted against 1,000 Homes. Despite our Coalition’s massive depth, at least 4,500 people living unsheltered, and our demands’ clear resonance within the community, the majority of Councilmembers refused to use public funds for housing — the very same public dollars they were willing to spend for a new police bunker in the North Precinct.

It is unconscionable to continue to prioritize an unnecessary new police precinct over the urgent needs of communities, especially people of color. Corporate Democrats built their own Coalition of 1,000 Excuses. We will need to continue to build our movement even stronger! Let’s build on our victory!

And while we celebrate the $29 million, we have a lot more work to do. The recent election of Donald Trump and the imminent threat he poses to immigrants, Muslims, women, LGBTQ people, and all communities of color, shows that we also may very soon need to struggle to defend our basic rights.

We will keep you posted about upcoming events, and encourage all of you to stay in touch about upcoming struggles.

The final budget vote will be on Monday, November 21st, at 2 pm. I encourage you all to attend, and let Councilmembers know that, while they supported the $29 million, it’s not enough. We’re going to continue to organize for affordable housing because ordinary people can’t survive our city’s skyrocketing rents.

The very next day, on Tuesday, November 22nd, at 12 pm, we will finally see Council vote on my bill to limit move-in fees, requiring landlords to provide the option of a six-month payment plan for the last month’s rent, fees, and deposit. I again encourage everyone who can make it to come tell Council to pass the bill with no loopholes!

Whatever it takes, working people of Seattle will keep building to fully fund affordable housing, human services, and beyond!

Next Steps for 1,000 Homes!

Dear fellow housing justice advocates,

Thank you so much for all of your great work on the Build 1,000 Homes campaign! In the last two weeks, our coalition of 65-plus organizations has called, emailed, and met with City Councilmembers to urge them to Build 1,000 Homes. We have succeeded in showing the Council that there is deep community support for our budget proposal, rooted in the devastation caused by skyrocketing rents, homelessness, and the lack of affordability.

Together, we have already made addressing the affordable housing crisis the centerpiece of the 2017 budget debate. The Build 1,000 Homes demand rang out loudest during the budget public hearing on October 25. This is an important accomplishment, and I congratulate each and every one of you for that.

We will be meeting on Thursday, November 10 at 6 PM at City Hall to discuss our next steps and how we will build for the final vote taking place on either November 15 or 16.

So far, Councilmember Mike O’Brien and I have signed on in support of our proposal to Build 1,000 Homes. It is very disappointing that the other councilmembers — Bruce Harrell, Rob Johnson, Lisa Herbold, Deborah Juarez, Lorena González, Sally Bagshaw, and Tim Burgess — have not joined in supporting this proposal, even though each of them has repeatedly affirmed their commitment to addressing the housing affordability crisis. In spite of the Mayor’s declaration of a state of civil emergency on homelessness, and the ever-worsening affordable housing crisis in Seattle, their inaction indicates that they would prefer that City Council avoid taking up even a public discussion on the 1,000 Homes.

But when ordinary people decide to stand up and fight for what’s just, politicians are forced to respond. Although most currently refuse to discuss 1,000 Homes, six councilmembers (including myself and Mike O’Brien), have co-sponsored a budget amendment to discuss allocating $29 million to affordable housing. This would, if approved, build 180 affordable homes based on the per-unit estimates given to my office by the Office of Housing, or up to 500 according to the estimates given to Councilmember Herbold by Enterprise Community Partners.

If we win the $29 million, this will be a victory directly based on the immense work we did and the pressure Seattle politicians are feeling from the strength of our coalition. But winning even $29 million is by no means guaranteed. Our coalition needs to keep up its work for 1,000 Homes for us to win any affordable housing dollars in this year’s budget.

But working people need urgent, bold and big action on affordable housing. We need all the 1,000 affordable homes built now. We will continue to move forward with 1,000 Homes in the next two weeks, as the City budget is debated and voted on. I will introduce it as a budget amendment on either November 15 or 16 at 9:30 AM at City Hall (we will let you know as soon as the vote is scheduled). We need to come out in force to urge councilmembers to vote Yes for Build 1,000 Homes!

And we need to keep up our advocacy by putting up posters all over Seattle, organizing “stand-outs” around town, calling and emailing councilmembers, and taking other actions.

Want to help build the fight? Join us at the next coalition meeting: Thursday, November 10, 6 PM at City Hall (enter the doors on Fifth Avenue in between Cherry and James Street). It’s crucial that we have a packed and energetic meeting!

 

Share Your Thoughts on Housing Affordability Proposals

Housing affordability continues to be on many people’s minds as we see headline after headline about rising home prices, rising rents, and an increase in our homeless population. While we see many things in our community changing, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to each other and to rolling up our sleeves and solving these big issues.

That is why in August of this year we voted overwhelmingly to renew the Seattle Housing Levy. Sustaining programs that provide home ownership opportunities and creating more housing for those most in need is a top priority. What we also know is that the Seattle Housing Levy, while a great tool, cannot do all that is needed to address the growing need for more affordable housing.

The City of Seattle has been hard at work passing tenant protections, removing barriers to housing for vulnerable populations, and working in coalitions in Olympia to change state law and provide more funding.  You can check all that out at Seattle.gov/HALA.

What we want to talk about today is our Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program, which we have spent much of the year drafting for City Council’s review and passage. This new program will, for the first time in our City’s history, require new development in Seattle’s most dense areas to contribute to affordable housing. This contribution is based on the City providing more capacity (allowing buildings to be taller or wider) in exchange for a developer to either build new affordable units or pay a fee to the Office of Housing (the same stewards of our Housing Levy dollars).

We are about halfway through the process of putting this program to work. We recently passed legislation that allows this program to exist in any area of the city where we make zoning changes. The next step is to actually make the zoning changes, and the City recently released a set of proposed zoning maps that targets these changes in our most dense areas of the city. These mapped proposals have been shaped by a nearly year-long community engagement process in which residents were asked how they would like to see their neighborhoods change. From that process, we developed a set of principles to guide the design of zoning changes.

We understand that zoning is one of the more complex tools used to harness the growth in Seattle, so we created this video to help guide you through using the maps.

Review the proposed zoning maps and tell us what’s working and what isn’t.

Your feedback will help the City find appropriate ways to increase the amount of both affordable AND market rate housing in our growth areas.

Urban Politics #381: Council passes resolution in support of lifting state ban on limiting rent increases

The City Council did the right thing by passing a resolution (8-1, Okamoto) in support of local control of rent regulation, and asking the state legislature to lift the ban on cities limiting rent increases. The Council also requested that the Office of Intergovernmental Relations incorporate this position into the City’s forthcoming 2016 State Legislative agenda.

This resolution closely mirrors Resolution 31590, sponsored by Councilmember Sawant and myself, previously discussed in the Housing, Human Services and Economic Development last week. Both resolutions call for repealing or modifying RCW 35.321.830.

In a highly unusual move, the resolution was introduced for a vote at the same meeting, when exiting legislation on the same subject was being considered in committee. I can’t recall another instance in my time on the Council where this has happened. My resolution, co-sponsored by Councilmember Sawant, received a split vote with three in support and three opposed in the Housing Committee.

The pressure from citizens being pushed out not only their apartments, but often out of Seattle in search of affordable housing, filled the council chambers to capacity on more than one occasion. They changed the attitude of councilmembers.

The new resolution clearly adopts the core request of the original legislation, asking the state legislature modify or repeal RCW 35.21.830, which would allow cities to propose and pass legislation to protect tenants from sudden and dramatic rent increases. The repeated turnout of citizens asking the council to do something about our housing crises brought about this victory.

I’d like to thank Lisa Herbold from my office for her collaborative work on this, which set the stage for passage. I’d also like to thank Eric Dunn of the Northwest Justice Project, and Jon Grant, former director of the Tenant’s Union, for bringing this issue to the Council.

(Note: Last week UP #380 was incorrectly listed as #379; that’s now been corrected on my blog)

UP #378 Resolution to Lift State Ban on Limiting Rent Increases

43rd District Meeting; photo: Zachary Pullin

I want to thank the 43rd Legislative District Democrats for voting unanimously last night to pass a resolution in support of legislation Councilmember Sawant and I are sponsoring to ask the state legislature to repeal or modify the state prohibition on restricting rent increases.

I give a special thanks to Colin Maloney for submitting the resolution to the 43rd Legislative District Democrats for a vote. The resolution states:

Now, therefore, be in resolved that the 43rd District Democrats call for the Seattle City Council and Mayor make it the official policy of the City of Seattle that the undemocratic prohibition on rent control by the State of Washington be overturned, and that the City should actively lobby the State Legislature to end this ban.

We face an affordable housing crisis in Seattle. While the HALA recommendations are a step in the right direction, repeal or modification of the state ban is necessary for any comprehensive approach. Danny Westneat wrote earlier this year that a tenant faced a 145% rent increase; the City is unable to address this due to the state prohibition.

The resolution we are co-sponsoring will come before the Housing, Human Services and Economic Development Committee chaired by Councilmember Okamoto this Thursday. The Committee meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. Public comment is at the beginning of the meeting. Please join us in persuading the Councilmembers to support this timely and necessary resolution to allow the people of Seattle an opportunity to seek relief from our current affordable housing crises.

I laid out the case for this legislation in the Seattle Times; background information and more details are available in Urban Politics #369.