Seattle Deserves a Complete Housing Solution

Seattle is the fastest growing big city in the U.S., and Seattle’s infrastructure is bursting at the seams. Skyrocketing housing prices are squeezing low-income Seattleites — often people of color, immigrants, and refugees — out of Seattle.

Efforts to improve the problem have been under way for some time.  For example, subsidies help low-income renters pay for housing.  A housing levy helps housing providers build, maintain, or manage affordable housing units.  Tax incentives give developers a break, and incentive zoning allows them to build taller buildings in exchange for adding more affordable housing units to the city.

But we need more affordable housing at a faster rate than we are seeing. In fact, Seattle needs to produce 28,000 affordable units in the next 20 years. Right now, “affordable” means rent lower than $1,200 for a one-bedroom unit.

The lack of affordable housing is a complex problem tied to wages, transportation, health, and social justice.   I just heard a story of a woman who grew up in Rainier Valley but could only find affordable housing in south King County.  She works in downtown Seattle.  Despite her employer’s generous free transit pass she still spends hours on her commute because she cannot find affordable housing near her work.

The issue isn’t piecemeal, so the solution can’t be piecemeal, either.  All of the moving parts of affordable housing – parts like tenant protection, housing preservation and development, tenant stability – are linked, and one or two quick fixes are not enough to undertake an issue of such magnitude and complexity.

That’s why the Mayor brought together an advisory committee to develop an agenda for housing and livability.  The committee comprises people from all sides of the table – developers, tenants, landlords, employers, philanthropy – and the committee has participated in a thorough process to tackle every piece of the housing puzzle.

The agenda will come to the Council’s Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resilience next month.  As Chair of the committee – and a long-time Seattle resident – I look forward to seeing a complete solution that is sustainable and legally sound.  It is at that time that we can assess the impact and implications of their recommendations and any other proposals to address this daunting challenge.

 

Standing Up with Teachers

With my grandson Noah, a kindergartner at Kimball Elementary School

Today my grandson Noah and I had the honor of joining teachers and supporters from across the City and around the state calling on legislators to live up to their paramount duty and fully fund public education. Too many children have been denied their constitutional rights to education.  The 52,000 students in the Seattle Public Schools, their parents, and the 9,000 staff, including those that belong to the Seattle Education Association, have waited too long.  With my grandchildren Noah, Nico and Kira soon to all be in public schools, I don’t want to wait any longer.

We started our day at the Jefferson Community Center, where over 80 school children were playing dodgeball and other games. Thanks to the wonderful Seattle Parks and recreation staff at Jefferson and all 21 community centers where the city offered free recreational activities for Seattle students today!

From there, we headed over to Westlake Park to participate in the rally. We were proud to be among the thousands of people gathered there, calling that “good schools require good funding!”

When I took office, I pledged in my oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of Washington, as did our state legislators. In light of that oath, I will continue, as a councilmember, to advocate for full funding of public education and to hold the State accountable to its own paramount constitutional  duty “’ to make ample provision for the education of all children.”   The legislature, now in special session, must live up to their oath.

So Much to Do and So Little Time to Do It

There is so much to do, and so little time to do it.

I want to find solutions to reduce the need to warehouse the homeless in shelters and truly make homelessness rare, brief and one time with my fellow committee members, with our regional partners, with the Human Services Department and our community based partners.  We need to address the conditions that lead to homelessness, and try new things.  I want to work to get the right services to the right people to help them off the streets in the downtown area.

I look forward to partnering to find and implement new funding tools to build more affordable housing for all spectrums of income.

It has been nearly a decade since we have analyzed the health conditions of our residents, yet we are spending $14m on health programs without knowing if our resources are directed to the most needed places.  I look forward to advocating for the health needs of our residents as fellow members of the King County Board of Health.

I want to take a harder look at the data we use in our results driven initiatives, to ensure we are capturing data at the subpopulation levels and targeting our resources to areas of greatest need.

“…These are ambitious goals for the next 8 months, I know.  But the people of Seattle deserve real progress on all these fronts.  And the only way we can deliver is by working together collaboratively.”