THE PEOPLES PARTY POSITION ON HOUSING AND AFFORDABILITY
The housing crisis of Seattle is characteristically existential in nature. The housing crisis revolves around notions of ‘worthiness’ and who the city’s leadership deems ‘worthy enough’ to live in Seattle. It is too often the case that many Seattleites of all colors are deemed unworthy to live in Seattle because of the sheer size of their pocketbooks. One measure that has been created to address this crisis is the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). HALA presents itself to be an initial platform for a conversation regarding affordable housing, but it does not go far enough. It is more reflective of the interests of developers, rather than the immediate housing needs of the average Seattleite. If HALA remains the same, Seattleites of all colors will continue to face the reality of being pushed further and further out of Seattle. Unless there are significant changes to HALA, it will remain to be but only one small, mostly ineffective, avenue for change which only slightly mitigates the housing challenges faced by many Seattlelites.
Nikkita and the Peoples Party will proactively work to ensure that Seattle’s most economically vulnerable citizens of all colors have a newfound ability and heightened sense of agency to remain in their city. Nikkita and The People’s Party will do so by making sure that affordable housing moves in lockstep with development. It is the goal of Nikkita and the Peoples Party to have a healthy relationship with developers. In light of this, Nikkita and the Peoples Party will hold big businesses and developers accountable and require they pay their fair share for the strain that development puts on longtime Seattleites. This will require more than setting aside a token 3% of multimillion dollar developments for so called “affordable” housing. Every single Seattleite should have a right to raise their children within a stable environment, to not have family homes uprooted, and an ability to envision a level of stability in the midst of rental price fluctuations. These amenities should not be luxuries only reserved for the wealthy. Nikkita and the Peoples Party will ensure there is housing for all Seattlelites through the following strategies.
Of course our work is never done. Nikkita and the Peoples Party will always be seeking better solutions and so this list is neither exhaustive nor finalized.
STOP GIVING DEVELOPERS A FREE RIDE
Position: Seattle’s proposed version of an affordable housing plan is a predatory developer’s dream–all the benefits without the financial responsibility and accountability for the impact upon Seattle’s longstanding residents. Mayor Murray has proposed inclusion requirements as low as 3% and as high as 6% of the newly constructed up-zoned units. This is a miniscule price completely inconsistent with other cities that mandate affordable housing for expanded development. This is a windfall in Seattle. Other cities mandating affordable housing utilizing similar affordable housing structures require anywhere from 15% – 30% of all new, bigger developments be affordable.
Action Agenda: There is no compelling reason that Seattle should not require a larger amount of investment from developers that is at least comparable with the demands made by other large cities such as New York City and San Francisco. Nikkita and the Peoples Party will align with Jon Grant’s recommendation and require that 25% of all new up-zoned developments be affordable.
Position: The housing shortage is one of Seattle’s signature battles of the 21st Century. We need to employ every single tool to fight against it. If Seattle truly desires to be proactive toward the economic apartheid Murray has spoken to, Seattle wiill fight back affirmatively and aggressively against RCW 35.21.830–the Reaganomics-era prohibition on rent control. The Reagan Era, just like the current Trump Era, is a time when many of the protections for “regular people” went out the window. Rent control was one of those protections. Even though the City seems intent to pursue many San Francisco programs, Mayor Murray actively advocates against one tool which could grant immediate relief to thousands: rent control.
Action Agenda: When it comes to repealing rent control Seattle cannot do it alone. Though the Seattle City Council passed a watered-down rent control resolution, it did not implement rent control in Seattle. Instead of being minimally progressive, a truly proactive Seattle is a vocal dissenter leading the charge to get rid of this prohibition. Rent control is not a panacea to the many issues regarding affordable housing in Seattle—it is only one tool.
Position: We need to fight as hard against displacement as we do for density. In order to be a truly safe and welcoming city for low-income people and people of color we must do both well. Right now we are doing neither. The population of Seattle is rapidly growing. According to census data, approximately 236 people are moving to Seattle each day. Density and development seem to be an inevitability. Therefore, we must respond to the housing crisis as well as honor the right of longstanding Seattlites to stay put. Smart equitable development and strategic urban planning are a must. The burden of zoning changes and density have been isolated to particular neighborhoods. Mostly those Seattle neighborhoods which are historically and presently most marginalized.
Action Agenda: Nikkita and the Peoples Party are anti-displacement and pro-strategic equitable density development. Effective urban planning requires we also consider the implications for public transportation and the sort of infrastructure necessary to ensure 1) people without cars can safely, effectively, and efficiently get to and from work; 2) people with cars may choose to forego the use of their automobiles because public transportation is so effective; and 3) lessen the impact upon the City and environment of more cars on the roads. Lastly, the geographic constraints of the City cannot be overlooked, but they must be clearly articulated to the public and opportunity for questions, solution building and shared understanding of the implications must be created.
AGGRESSIVELY COUNTERACT DISPLACEMENT OF MARGINALIZED IDENTITIES
Position: In Seattle communities of color and other vulnerable populations are in jeopardy. The black community, the Native community, the Latinx community, the Asian Pacific Islander Community and Seniors are all in danger of becoming artifacts that no longer exist within Seattle. Neighborhoods like the Central District, an historically black neighborhood, are becoming museums displaced residents can barely visit let alone live.
(For the purposes of this section, the Peoples Party will utilize the definition of “marginalized populations” contained within the “Seattle 2035: Growth and Equity” Public Review Draft from May of 2015. “Seattle 2035” speaks directly to the “minimizing” and “mitigating” of displacement of marginalized populations. Marginalized populations are defined as “low-income people, people of color, and English language learners.”)
Action Agenda: We must specifically counteract displacement of these historic communities We can do this by 1) substantially reducing or freezing property taxes to protect long-time residents; 2) protecting senior homeowners; 3) dramatically increase funding for existing senior home repair programs; and 4) create a stabilization voucher for long-time residents of low-income communities.
Position: Currently low-income public housing buildings and communities exists throughout Seattle. Unfortunately, many public housing units have also been lost to redevelopment. Households in the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) program earn 80 percent or less of the area median income to qualify and typically pay 30 percent of their monthly income for rent and utilities.
According to a November 2014 Seattle Times article, while Seattle’s 2014 median household income increased to an all-time high of $70,200, wages for black Seattlelites decreased to $25,700–a 13.5% decrease from 2012. Despite being one of the 50 largest cities in the United States and having the largest black community in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has one of the lowest incomes for black households. While the average income earnings of black households in Seattle have increased to $37,000 they are still well below what is necessary to obtain and keep even “affordable” housing in Seattle.
In 2015 the Seattle Times reported the median income of Seattle to be $89,349 (an increase of $9,374 since 2014). Incomes are rapidly soaring in Seattle, but not all Seattlites are reaping the benefits. As Seattle gets richer the gap between the cash-wealthy and cash-poor only continues to grow. There have been some income gains, but they are not across the board. The median income for Latinx households has stalled at $49,000 and does not seem to be increasing. While most communities of color have experienced minimal increases, they do not even closely reflect the gains of their white counterparts.
Action Agenda: During the Peoples Party Community Listening Posts many people expressed a desire to see the City build more public housing as opposed to simply relying upon affordable housing schemes, such as HALA, to address the current housing crisis. Nikkita and the Peoples Party take your voices and solutions seriously. We will therein work with the Seattle Housing Authority to build and sustain more public housing. Housing specifically for individuals and families who earn 80 percent or less of the area median income to qualify. Housing and Urban Dvelopment (HUD) suggests that families should not be spending more than 20-30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. We will push SHA to reduce the expected percentage of housing dollars spent per a household to 20 percent of their monthly income for rent and utilities. Additionally, the goal will be to establish self-governance plans and tenant boards which encourage self-determination, personal agency and the development of community based social service initiatives that best serve the needs of the residents in each SHA community.