Ballots were mailed Jan. 25 for the Feb. 14 election. It’s appropriate that this particular ballot is due on Valentine’s Day, as it deals with an issue that is very close to my heart.
There is just one item on this ballot — Initiative 135. I-135, developed by community organizers of the House Our Neighbors! Coalition, a political action project of Real Change, would create a developer to bring social housing to Seattle. When we vote “yes,” voters will do something truly transformative for our city.
Social housing is publicly owned and permanently affordable. This model would create housing that will be available to those across the income spectrum, green, union built and accountable to tenants. The status quo in our city is displacement and inequity. We can create a Seattle where everyone can afford stability.
We need to develop innovative solutions if we want to meaningfully address the housing crises in our region. More than 40,000 people in King County are experiencing homelessness. Rents are continuously rising, and limited protections harm even market-rate renters.
Voting yes on I-135 is an easy action for me, because it is a solution in a time of unparalleled pressures. When your house is burning, it’s okay to call the fire department while you douse the flames with an extinguisher.
Our house is burning. The more ideas, work and support we have to address housing insecurity in our region, the better.
Social service providers, activists, renters, workers and neighbors agree: Social housing is our future. Solid Ground, Nickelsville, Economic Opportunity Institute and so many more groups and individuals have signed on to endorse I-135. We know that current housing options are not working for us, and we need to think differently if we want a different outcome.
And yet, not unexpectedly, the Seattle Times Editorial Board last week failed to consider Seattle’s future. Once again, this board chose to not endorse community-led solutions to the housing crisis. Its primary stated concern — which was not expanded upon — is an unfounded one around the stability of funding for the Social Housing Developer.
Economists and experts, including those who have successfully developed social housing in cities around the world, disagree.
The board writes, “As it stands, I-135 has no funding and no accountability for public dollars.” A brilliant model of low-interest loans building on a bonded grant would enable a sustainable funding structure to pay for social housing projects. I encourage you to learn more at houseourneighbors.org.
The board’s response also included, “Real Change has traditionally focused on advocating for those who are experiencing homelessness.” To me, this critique of Real Change’s involvement smacked of a “stay in your lane” sentiment, to which I would respond that this is my lane. I am a Seattleite. I am a neighbor to young families and seniors and those sleeping rough. I am a renter of market-rate housing who had to move this year because of a significant rent increase. This is all of our lanes, because it is about the future of our shared city.
As you check your mail this week, look out for the little blue-and-white envelope. There is something important hiding inside. A little valentine to the people of Seattle. A message of hope and love when you sign and return it by Feb. 14 with a resounding “yes.”
Read more of the Jan. 25-31, 2023 issue.