The city of Seattle will invest $110 million to build new affordable housing in 2020, the largest investment in a single year in the city’s history.
Mayor Jenny Durkan said the influx of cash would help support the construction of 13 new buildings, including a total of 1,944 apartments in the city. The public dollars are expected to leverage another $600 million in investments through “additional public and private sources,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
Funding comes from real estate taxes, the Seattle Housing Levy, sales taxes and payments from developers that allow them to exceed existing zoning by contributing funds to build offsite affordable housing.
The money will be split between different organizations that will develop the housing, some in marginalized communities that have seen longtime residents displaced by gentrification, such as the Central District.
Several of the new buildings will include community amenities such as child care facilities, a senior health center and community spaces.
Underpaid no more
Hundreds of thousands of workers in Washington will receive overtime pay for their work after a state department finalized a regulation that requires time-and-a-half for salaried workers making roughly $70,000 a year when they work more than 40 hours a week.
According to the Economic Opportunity Institute, a think tank, Washington has not updated its overtime regulations since 1976.
“Overtime pay protects both the income and the time of salaried employees,” Marilyn Watkins, policy director for the institute, said in a statement. “With these new standards, employers will have to choose between paying workers appropriately and honoring a 40-hour work week.”
Protections for salaried workers have steadily declined over the years as both wages and cost of living rose, but the salary threshold for overtime protections did not keep pace.
In September, the federal Department of Labor passed new overtime rules that updated salary levels set in 2004. According to Vox.com, the change was a benefit to 1.3 million workers who fell under the new limit, but a disappointment for 2.8 million others who would have qualified for overtime under an Obama administration proposal. That version would have tied the salary limit to cost of living, meaning that it would rise naturally rather than require an intervention by lawmakers.
Under the federal rule, people making up to $35,568 will qualify for overtime, up from $23,000.
Some professions do not qualify for overtime pay at all, such as farmworkers. A lawsuit brought on behalf of dairy workers is attempting to change that. The lawsuit is currently awaiting a decision from the Washington State Supreme Court.
Company pays for delays
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will receive $57.2 million in damages resulting from more than two years of delay in the construction that would become the new state route 99 tunnel.
The money pays for the change orders made to the project as the timeline extended.
According to The Seattle Times, a jury found in favor of WSDOT, which alleged that Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) had been in breach of contract as a result of the delays. The company, in turn, blamed the state, saying that it was a state worker who had left behind an offending piece of pipe that shut Bertha, the giant drilling machine that made the tunnel possible, down.
STP can appeal.
The State Route 99 tunnel along downtown Seattle provoked controversy and lawsuits when it was first proposed. Real Change’s advocacy arm joined a coalition opposing the new tunnel, saying that the money could be better used on other city priorities. In addition, the demolition of the viaduct between downtown and the waterfront meant that many homeless people who camped underneath would have to find new places to go.
The removal of the viaduct and the planned addition of Waterfront Park have caused property values in the area to soar, according to The Seattle Times.
All Home acting director dragged
The acting director for the organization that coordinates homelessness response in King County has resigned after taking heat for including a drag performance on the lunch break for the organization’s annual conference.
First reported by local journalist Erica C. Barnett, Acting Director Kira Zylstra was put on administrative leave pending an investigation. She resigned from her position on Dec. 16, according to The Seattle Times.
The All Home King County annual conference was held Dec. 9. The theme was “Decolonizing Our Collective Work,” focusing on decision-making processes within government, philanthropic and nonprofit institutions.
The event took a turn during lunch when drag performer Beyonce Black St. James entered the lunch hall and began a show that one attendee told Real Change was unexpected. Other people who were present said online that they were aware of the show in advance. A YouTube video shows St. James going to a table in a bright room and dancing near seated guests.
Video from the event posted by St. James shows the performer was bare from the waist up, wearing pasties to cover her nipples.
All Home King County is the federally designated “continuum of care” that organizes the annual census of people experiencing homelessness and reports data about the local response to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. As a result, it is the conduit through which federal money to combat homelessness flows.
It has long been criticized for having relatively little power — while it offers a space for governments to convene and help set homelessness policy, it has no enforcement capacity.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
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