The Executive Director of Seattle Housing Authority, Andrew Lofton, sent a letter to the mayor today indicating that the proposed changes known as “Stepping Forward” would not be implemented in 2015. The letter indicated that SHA intends to further study the impacts of the proposal and work with the community to put forward a plan for 2016.
The Stepping Forward plan would’ve limited the years that people could qualify for subsidized housing and incrementally raise their share of rent during their tenure. The proposal was largely triggered by the need to do more with less funding because the population in need has been increasing while funding has been shrinking. The philosophy behind the plan was to nudge people off subsidized housing in order to open up space for others.
This theory was roundly criticized, noting that those who could not get higher paying jobs would essentially be left to fend for themselves. Additionally, critics indicated that the plan didn’t put nearly enough value on the stability of subsidized housing. Hopefully, re-examining the plan will lead to a better solution and more effort into increasing funding.
In an e-mail to SHA staff, Lofton wrote:
I wanted to give you an update on our next steps with regard to the Stepping Forward rent proposal.
Yesterday I sent the attached letter to Mayor Murray explaining the status of the proposal. The letter acknowledges a of couple important things: 1) that we heard many concerns from residents that they would not be able to secure adequate employment to allow them to achieve the rent steps proposed in Stepping Forward, and 2) that we need to do a better job of explaining the deep budget cuts and overall financial challenges that SHA faces, which could have big implications for the larger Seattle community.
Therefore, the letter explains that we will put consideration of Stepping Forward on hold for 2015. This will allow us to take the time to engage the community more effectively on our financial realities and work toward a revised rent proposal that would not go to the Board before 2016.
You all have been incredibly engaged in rent policy discussions and have contributed a tremendous amount of good work and thinking to craft a rent policy option. I am extraordinarily proud of the work that went into developing the proposal, and of the participation by so many of you that helped shape our recommendation. Let me stress that this is not the end; it is an opportunity to respect what we heard in the process and to use that information to further shape a response to the difficult times ahead–and that we continue to need your help! Our fiscal challenges haven’t changed, and the goals that were established at the beginning of the process are still valid: 1) Serve more people, 2) Develop a policy that is fair and equitable, and supports self-sufficiency; and 3) Address our financial challenges. We will build from all that has been done to date.
I will continue to keep you updated as we move into this next phase of our work on our rent policy. Thank you for your patience and the work you do every day to serve our participants.
The message Lofton delivered to the mayor seems to recognize that the effort of community stakeholders probably prevented the implementation of this plan, stating:
We will redouble our outreach efforts to inform stakeholders and the general public of the possible consequences of sequestration.
But the comments seem to ignore the plausibility of being able to effectively move people onto living wage jobs. SHA will move ahead with a pilot program that is intended to connect people with jobs. It will be interesting to see if this type of program has a higher success rate than people who don’t use the program. Hopefully SHA will track the success of the program and consider this when drafting the next proposal.
The full letter to Mayor Murray is below.