Make it so
Attorney General Bob Ferguson may go ahead with an investigation into hiring practices at Seattle Pacific University (SPU) after a federal judge dismissed the university’s lawsuit attempting to claim that the inquiry would cause the school “irreparable harm.”
The state Attorney General’s Office (AGO) opened an investigation into SPU’s hiring practices in response to student and faculty complaints over the summer. The office sent a letter to SPU requesting information including documentation of hiring policies, complaints from people impacted by hiring policies, contact information for those people and more.
According to a press release from the AGO, federal Judge Robert Bryant granted the AGO’s motion to dismiss the university’s amended complaint, ruling that “SPU is asking for a change in state law that the federal court cannot grant.” Bryant also found that the school should raise its First Amendment concerns in state court.
SPU is a religious school affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, an evangelical Christian denomination. As a result, the school’s board of trustees affirmed a hiring policy over the summer that gives preference to Christians and expects employees to embrace a lifestyle in line with its biblical views of human sexuality, including a ban on activities such as extramarital “cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity, and same-sex sexual activity.”
Students and allies protested for months. According to the Seattle Times, a group ultimately sued the school seeking a new president and board.
A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a left-of-center thinktank, found that rent prices continued to increase nationally through 2022, putting additional pressure on low-income households.
Median rent rose nearly 32 percent between December 2017 and September 2022 for newly leased units, but the vast majority of that bump came between 2021 and 2022, according to data the CBPP cited from Apartmentlist.com.
The group argued that bringing rents down will require a multi-pronged approach, including starting new construction, preserving affordable housing that’s already built and providing rental assistance to households who need it.
Low-income households have long struggled to make it in the for-profit rental market. The National Low Income Housing Coalition produces two annual reports — “The Gap” and “Out of Reach” — that show the number of affordable rentals available in each state and metro area and the wage needed to afford a market-rate apartment without paying more than 30 percent of income on rent.
In Washington, only 51 rental units are available for people at or below 50 percent of the area median income, meaning a large number of households qualify as rent burdened. A minimum wage worker would have to work 72 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom rental at fair market rent.
Read more of the Nov. 2-8, 2022 issue.