Meet the Seattle Renters’ Commission: David Mooney

The Mayor and Seattle City Council recently announced the initial appointees selected to serve on the new Seattle Renters’ Commission. Created by Ordinance 125280 in March 2017, the 15-member commission will advise the City on priorities, policies, and strategies related to all issues concerning renters across the City of Seattle. It will also monitor and provide feedback on the enforcement and effectiveness of legislation related to renters and renter protections. All the appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.

 

David Mooney

David Mooney is a lifelong Seattleite who grew up in the Hillman City neighborhood. He attended Franklin High School and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in behavioral health at Seattle Central College.  David is passionate about the homeless and persons suffering with substance use disorders. He is a licensed chemical dependency professional and has sat on the Board of Trustee’s at Plymouth Housing. He also volunteered at Recovery Café, a community of respite and healing.  These and other life experiences have given him a unique perspective on the current housing crisis and the drivers of homelessness. David currently lives in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and enjoys playing guitar and riding his bike.

 

What inspired you to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission?

I am inspired to serve on the Seattle Renters Commission because I believe it will be part of the solution to housing for all. I have personally suffered displacement due to an inability to react in time to sudden acute rising rents. I have also been denied access to housing, regardless of ability to pay, solely because I have application barriers such as previous convictions and/or evictions that are over 20yrs old and for being a member of a marginalized community.  I am honored for a chance to be an advocate for change and to help find solutions for these and other barriers to housing in Seattle.

 

How has your experience as a renter shaped your perspective of Seattle?

I have lived in Seattle all my life. I can remember working full time at minimum wage and still being able to afford a small apartment. This is no longer the case. At our current rent prices, one would have to make at least 35% more than our current minimum wage to adequately afford a one-bedroom apartment. I have seen whole communities change due to this and other barrier issues. This is not the Seattle I grew up in and it doesn’t have to be this way.

 

What do you hope the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring to the City?

I hope the Seattle Renters Commission will bring an awareness to the issues that contribute to rising homelessness and displacement of Seattle renters. Also, since this is the first commission of its kind in the nation, I understand that what we do here can be echoed in other communities suffering similar housing issues.

 

What neighborhood do you live in and what do you love most about it?

I currently live in Capitol Hill. What I love about the Hill is its diversity.  It is the center of Seattle, both in a community sense and in its proximity to the business and retail core. My first apartment was on Capitol Hill and I am proud to be living here still.

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Meet the Seattle Renters’ Commission: Jessica Westgren

The Mayor and Seattle City Council recently announced the initial appointees selected to serve on the new Seattle Renters’ Commission. Created by Ordinance 125280 in March 2017, the 15-member commission will advise the City on priorities, policies, and strategies related to all issues concerning renters across the City of Seattle. It will also monitor and provide feedback on the enforcement and effectiveness of legislation related to renters and renter protections. All the appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.

 

Jessica Westgren

Jessica Westgren has lived in Seattle for over ten years. She received her BS in Psychology from Long Island University and currently works as a paralegal at a local holistic law firm. She previously spent five years working in Property Management where she saw firsthand the effects of the Housing Crisis in Seattle, including displacement, homelessness and economic stress due to rental rate increases. Jessica is one of the founders of Welcoming Wallingford, a grassroots community group working towards positive discussions concerning density in her neighborhood. In her free time, she volunteers with Seattle Tilth, KEXP, and has helped work on the Tiny House Villages with the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). She has been a renter her entire life and has been engaging with the city at a variety of HALA community meetings and land use public hearings.

 

What inspired you to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission?

I am inspired to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission (SRC) because over the last few years I have seen the city of Seattle enact great laws in favor of the renters’ community: Caps on Move-in fees & Deposits, Source of Income Protection, First-come First-served. Despite this progress, we are still facing an affordability crisis city-wide and I see a chance to enact real change through the SRC. Our city often takes initiative in unique ways and the first US renters’ commission has an opportunity to set an example for other urban areas to follow. My previous employment as a manager of an established apartment building in Seattle brought the affordability crisis beyond my personal life and into my office on a daily basis. I have seen how the environment for renters has changed in the last five years. I am no stranger to displacement within our communities. This is only one of many issues that renters in our city are facing. The Seattle Renters’ Commission is more than a volunteer position to me: It is a chance to enact real change in the city that I live in, and to have Seattle be within reach to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

 

How has your experience as a renter shaped your perspective of Seattle?

I have been a renter most of my childhood and all my adulthood. We lived in townhouses, stacked flats, single family homes and even a hotel. Having lived in New York and Massachusetts, I moved out here in 2007 to start a new life and escape the astronomical rents in both Boston and New York City. When I first moved to Seattle I could afford to live alone. Now, ten years later, I am in my mid-thirties and see rent rising and rising. I am unable to live alone even though I am better established professionally and have a higher wage. Having seen what happened back on the east coast, I see Seattle rapidly becoming similar to New York City, Boston, or any other dense east-coast metropolis. On the other hand, I see Seattle as still able to address the housing affordability crisis.

The City of Seattle makes me proud. Of all the places I have lived, Seattle has more protected classes, stricter Fair Housing Laws, and has been pursuing dynamic changes to legislation that have greatly added protections to our renters in the city. However, I see so many delays and arguments concerning Affordable Housing and where we should add density, that I also see us not acting fast enough. If Seattle allows those opposed to density to continually bring up lawsuits and objections to development, we will lose valuable time to develop the housing we so desperately need. Where I came from, I saw land use designations, neighborhood objections and neighborhood character arguments used to the point that some towns have affordable housing only available via lottery.  As a renter, this is the worst-case scenario and I worry that Seattle will head that way soon enough if we do not enact change broadly and quickly.

 

What do you hope the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring to the City?

I hope that the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring a voice to one of our largest populations: renters. In addition, I hope that we will be able to address displacement and economic evictions. It is important to recognize that renters are also stakeholders within their communities. My biggest hope for the Seattle Renters’ Commission is that we are able to overcome the subconscious bias that is commonly held against the renter lifestyle. I hear a great deal of stereotypes about renters and I hope that, through community engagement, we are able to change the dialogue. We can be an agent of de-stigmatization, which will enable us to have more productive conversations about density and affordable housing. The goal is to foster conversations about density and affordability that are less-abrasive and more constructive as our city continues to grow.

 

What neighborhood do you live in and what do you love most about it?

My neighborhood is Wallingford. I live near the west edge and what I love most is that it is very easy for me to live a car-free lifestyle in this community. In Wallingford, I have access to grocery stores, local shops, greenspaces, and transit. I have buses that take me into the city or provide quick access to the Light Rail and Ballard. Woodland Park and Meridian Park are in walkable distance and a short bike ride gets me to both Green Lake and Gas Works Park. Wallingford embraces the arts and is covered in murals and neon signs, giving it a distinct charm.

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Meet the Seattle Renters’ Commission: Jack Barker

The Mayor and Seattle City Council recently announced the initial appointees selected to serve on the new Seattle Renters’ Commission. Created by Ordinance 125280 in March 2017, the 15-member commission will advise the City on priorities, policies, and strategies related to all issues concerning renters across the City of Seattle. It will also monitor and provide feedback on the enforcement and effectiveness of legislation related to renters and renter protections. All the appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.

 

Jack Barker

Jack Barker is a Queer Transgender artist and corset maker, originally from New Hampshire.  He moved to Seattle in 1972 and has lived here ever since, with the exception of a year in Portland.  Over the past 45 years, Jack has rented lodgings in a variety of Seattle neighborhoods, including the Ave, Capitol Hill, North Aurora, the Central District, and Rainier Valley.  Since 2015, he has lived in Fremont as a renter in Seattle senior housing.

Jack has been active with LGBTQ Allyship, focusing on housing and homelessness concerns of LGBTQ youth and elders and other marginalized Queers. He has facilitated classes on the challenges of aging as a Trans person at Gender Odyssey and has been an overnight monitor and volunteer supporter of “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walks in Seattle. Jack has also worked as a volunteer at Teen Hope shelter in Shoreline and currently cooks Monday morning breakfast at ROOTS young adult shelter in the U District.

 

What inspired you to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission?

I was inspired to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission because I feel that a variety of renters’ voices should be heard, including the voice of an elderly Queer trans person who has been renting apartments in this city since 1972.

 

How has your experience as a renter shaped your perspective of Seattle?

Moving around Seattle over the years, I’ve lived in a number of neighborhoods — made the acquaintance of and formed friendships with a lot of people whose lives and experiences are quite different from my own. This has been good for me and has helped me learn to see reason and have compassion for all my fellow beings.

 

What do you hope the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring to the City?

I am hoping that we can figure out some way to halt and rewind this city’s runaway rental prices so that ordinary people of modest means who work in Seattle can actually afford to live here again.

 

What neighborhood do you live in and what do you love most about it?

I have lived in the Fremont neighborhood, near Woodland Park, for the last eighteen months. Prior to that, I lived five years in Rainier Valley, a couple years at the north end of Aurora, several years in Ballard, about twenty years on east Capitol Hill in the eighties and nineties, and a number of places around town before that. I have loved them all. But, here by the zoo, I enjoy listening to the big cats roar.

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Meet the Seattle Renters’ Commission: ChrisTiana ObeySumner

The Mayor and Seattle City Council recently announced the initial appointees selected to serve on the new Seattle Renters’ Commission. Created by Ordinance 125280 in March 2017, the 15-member commission will advise the City on priorities, policies, and strategies related to all issues concerning renters across the City of Seattle. It will also monitor and provide feedback on the enforcement and effectiveness of legislation related to renters and renter protections. All the appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.

 

ChrisTiana ObeySumner

ChrisTiana ObeySumner is an Alaskan-Born, Philly-Raised, East-Coast transplant who moved to the area in 2010 to attend Seattle University as a Transfer Scholar. They have a BS in Psychology, a Masters in Nonprofit Leadership, and is currently pursuing their M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health & Addictions Counseling. Their area of expertise and research is the relationship between marginalized and oppressed intersectionalities and access to basic human needs and rights in American society.

ChrisTiana is the chair of the Housing Committee within the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities and is also the founding Executive Director of the Eleanor Elizabeth Institute for Black Empowerment.

 

What inspired you to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission?

On a professional level, I was inspired to join the Renters’ Commission after working in housing and homelessness services for nearly five years. Across my career, I have seen the varying sorts of issues, barriers, and pitfalls that happen for our most vulnerable community members. In my current role, I have seen people denied housing for paying off landlord debt too quickly or for a crime they committed as a juvenile. In a county with nearly 12,000 people homeless, and a great portion of those people concentrated in our city, I have become a passionate advocate for social change. This advocacy is also informed by my own lived experience of homelessness from ages 9-25, and across more than five states. I get it. And, I hope both my professional and personal experiences can lend a narrative that will be transformative in this work.

 

How has your experience as a renter shaped your perspective of Seattle?

As a renter in Seattle, I have been taken aback by the wide fluctuations in rental prices; the marked difference in quality, quantity, and value of the properties; and the implicit class levels between varying property owners and those seeking housing. When I moved to Seattle, I thought my rental home in a quiet South New Jersey suburb–10 minutes outside of Philadelphia–expensive. It was a corner lot, two bedroom, one bathroom, with walk-in pantry, basement and sunroom: $1200. AND that was considered the hot market price! Today, I live in a small two bedroom, one bathroom four-plex off Aurora Ave N: Nearly $1400! A kind landlord offered to give us a deal on a new apartment in the same building with my mom, smaller unit, $1600! What is going on here? While I understand we are experiencing a tech boom, we all aren’t working in the tech industry. I empathize with private home owners who have no choice but to share a portion of the rising housing taxes onto their tenants, but it is unsustainable. While I have been lucky as a renter to remain housed, there is much work to be done to address the rental market in Seattle.

 

What do you hope the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring to the City?

I am, and always have been, an advocate for social justice. I applied for the Seattle Renters’ Commission because I am hoping it can create a dialogue around what is truly happening in our city. I feel the issue goes beyond whose fault this is, or even semantics on empathy for which group. Humans, as members of the Animal Kingdom, have always shared the trait of seeking out their basic needs: food, water, warmth, shelter. Shelter. This is something that is in short supply here, and that which is available is inaccessible for an unacceptable number of people. Beyond community, or personhood, or humanity–we have a right as animals to seek shelter. I hope the Commission will unite all people involved in this dynamic to come together and seek solutions to create adequate housing, affordable housing, and accessible housing: from legislators to landlords, and from tenants to transients.

 

What neighborhood do you live in and what do you love most about it?

I live in North Seattle, around the Bitter Lake area. I love my part of town. It is exciting. There are so many wonderful people who love to help and look out for you. We have the privilege of all the best fast food that you likely won’t find in the city (What’s good, Krispy Kreme?)! And, I love the vibrancy of the neighborhood. A lot of people are afraid of the area because some of our neighbors are a bit unorthodox, to say the least. My partner and I have made friends with a neighbor living in their RV down the road and my family frequently visits with another who lives in one of the Aurora motels. I am not saying that I believe their situation is OK or acceptable–but they are my neighbors, and I love them no matter what state they are in. It is for them that I do this work. It is for my neighborhood that I join this commission. I would rather live beside my neighbors and friends, then to have them struggle in plain sight.

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Meet the Seattle Renters’ Commission: Calvin Jones

The Mayor and Seattle City Council recently announced the initial appointees selected to serve on the new Seattle Renters’ Commission. Created by Ordinance 125280 in March 2017, the 15-member commission will advise the City on priorities, policies, and strategies related to all issues concerning renters across the City of Seattle. It will also monitor and provide feedback on the enforcement and effectiveness of legislation related to renters and renter protections. All the appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.

 

Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones grew up in Summit, New Jersey, and went to high school at The Pingry School in Martinsville, New Jersey. He went on to study math and join the swim team at Yale, where he also discovered a love of economics and public policy. He has lived in Seattle for the past three years and now works for Microsoft. He also enjoys volunteering at Mary’s Place in Belltown.

Calvin was placed on the Seattle Renters’ Commission through Get Engaged, a leadership development program for young adults ages 18-29 in partnership with the YMCA.

 

What inspired you to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission?

I was inspired to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission because of the affordability crisis that faces the city.  Seeing the number of homeless in Capitol Hill every morning on my way to work is a visceral reminder that we have a moral obligation to provide affordable housing to all of Seattle’s residents, no matter their background.  The Renters’ Commission is an opportunity to provide voice to the voiceless and bring about positive change for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

 

How has your experience as a renter shaped your perspective of Seattle?

My experience as a renter has highlighted how entrenched policy favors owners at the expense of renters.  The mortgage interest tax deduction and tight zoning laws in large swaths of Capitol Hill are two policies that artificially inflate both rents and home prices.  Higher prices are good for homeowners, but not renters.

 

What do you hope the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring to the City?

I hope the Renters’ Commission can bring a voice to the voiceless.  I hope the commission can bring together all renters in the city under a common set of policy proposals that benefit all Seattle residents, not just wealthy homeowners.

 

What neighborhood do you live in and what do you love most about it?

I moved to Madison Valley a few weeks ago and love that people can say “good morning!” on their way to work.

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