Momentum is building for a proposal to build 1,000 affordable homes in Seattle. Housing Now Seattle has joined a large coalition of nonprofit groups to endorse a proposal by Councilmember Kshama Sawant to build 1,000 homes. Seattle faces an unprecedented housing crisis, and we need as many people as possible to write and call City Councilmembers. See below for more information. With your help, we’ll get the strongest possible funding for affordable housing!

About the proposal

The 1,000 homes would be funded by the same financing plan that was originally presented for the North Precinct replacement. With the status of this replacement in doubt, this money is currently unallocated. Totaling $160 million, this money would come from a combination of real estate excise tax and sale of the Pacific Place Parking garage. Council staff has confirmed that this money can be used for housing via a general fund swap. The money would be allocated to the Seattle Office of Housing and used in much the same way as money from the Housing Levy.

Overwhelming support

In addition to the nonprofit groups, hundreds of people have come out in support of this proposal. At the October 25th budget hearing, Housing Now was joined by citizens of many different backgrounds, all in support of building 1,000 homes. We’d like to thank our many volunteers who heard the call. Even people who came to advocate for other things, added in comments like “oh, and build 1,000 homes while you’re at it.” Not a single person spoke against the idea in many hours of testimony. Since then, enthusiasm has continued to grow. A recent meeting at City Hall to organize the final push drew an impressive crowd just to plan the larger effort!

The state of play

Councilmember Mike O’Brien signed onto the budget amendment crafted by Sawant containing this proposal. This moves the proposal forward to be considered by the full council. Along with O’Brien and Sawant, Councilmembers Herbold, González, Bagshaw, and Johnson have signed onto another budget amendment to borrow $29 million for affordable homes. In the announcement, the revenue source for this money is unclear. This would fund perhaps 100-160 homes, depending of course on their size and level of affordability. The Council press release announcing this hopefully promises “up to 500 homes.” If the Council could find a way to build more homes in Seattle at $58,000 each, that alone would revolutionize housing in the city. Until then, keep your eye on the dollar amount when assessing competing proposals.

What’s most interesting about the 500 homes number, is that it’s exactly half of the 1,000 proposed by Councilmember Sawant. In other words, there’s a signal there that some of the councilmembers may be willing to negotiate. Councilmember Herbold indicated in a comment on our Facebook page that the $29 million number was a placeholder and that the budget process would determine what was appropriated.

On October 25th, over a hundred people attended the Council’s Budget hearings in support of the 1,000 homes proposal. Housing Now had our largest contingent yet, with about a dozen people in very stylish shirts over the course of a very long hearing. Indeed, it was amazing to hear so many people come together in support of more housing.

Housing Now volunteers heroically ascend the steps of city hall in their bold yet stylish shirts. (10/25/2016)
Housing Now volunteers heroically ascend the steps of city hall in their bold yet stylish shirts.

Since then, the momentum has continued to grow. Council staff I spoke to reported being flooded with calls in support of this proposal. Last Thursday, a group of advocates from a variety of groups got together to plan our mobilization for the budget deliberations. This was a sizable meeting in and of itself, and this was just the planning meeting! We took a group photo of us all saying, Housing Now!

November 16th: The Final Showdown

On November 16th, the City Council will meet to deliberate over a variety of budget proposals. We need as many people as possible to write and call individual council members between now and then. We also need people to come on the 16th if at all possible to testify and show support. Please RSVP on our Facebook event and on the main event page.

Councilmembers who particularly need to hear from us include Rob Johnson, Lisa Herbold, Lorena González, Bruce Harrell, Tim Burgess, Debora Juarez, and Sally Bagshaw. If you aren’t able to contact all of them, that’s okay, but please call one or two if you can! Find their contact information below.

At the meeting on the 16th, Public comment will be permitted in the morning, with signups to begin at 8.30am and testimony to begin at 9.30am. We don’t know how many people will be allowed to speak or for how long but both will be limited. We need as many people as possible to write or call individual councilmembers between now and then. We also need as many people as possible to join us at the meeting. We’ll be sporting Housing Now shirts so if you plan to attend, please let us know your preferred size if you don’t already have a shirt.

Will you join us?

Contact Councilmembers

  • Councilmember Lisa Herbold, 206-684-8803,
  • Councilmember Bruce Harrell, 206-684-8804,
  • Councilmember Rob Johnson, 206-684-8808,
  • Councilmember Deborah Juarez, 206-684-8805,
  • Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, 206-684-8801,
  • Councilmember Tim Burgess, 206-684-8806
  • Councilmember Lorena González, 206-684-8802,

Also, if you get the chance, please thank Councilmembers Mike O’brien and Kshama Sawant for their support.

  • Councilmember Mike O’Brien, 206-684-8800,
  • Councilmember Kshama Sawant, 206-684-8016,

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The Urbanist encourages dialogue on important urban issues through guest contributions. Over the years, we've had dozens of guest authors share their opinions and insights ranging from commentary on current events to community interviews and researched think pieces. If you would like to see your name behind a byline on The Urbanist, feel free to reach out to our Editorial Team at editorial[at]theurbanist[dot]org.

Article Author

Alex Broner is Director of Housing Now, a project of Welcoming Communities Washington.

Article Author
Housing Now Seattle (Guest Contributor)