by Lauryn Bray
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s JumpStart Housing Community Self-Determination Fund promises to allocate 13% from JumpStart’s progressive payroll tax to support community-based organizations (CBOs) and their efforts to combat displacement, gentrification, and housing insecurity. This fund comes out of JumpStart Seattle, which was approved by Seattle City Council in 2020 to raise money for affordable housing and small businesses by requiring large businesses to pay a tax for all Seattle employees who make $150,000 a year or more.
The Community Self-Determination Fund is focused on neighborhood sustainability and equitable development. The bill carves out an estimated $24 million in annual support for CBOs looking to create affordable housing facilities that serve their communities and cater to the individuals within them. It also works to abrogate long-standing discriminatory policies and lending practices that have historically made it difficult for CBOs to access the funding necessary to develop these facilities.
The bill outlining the creation of the JumpStart Self-Determination Fund was passed unanimously by the council on June 28, but more must happen to ascertain its future. In 2020, a similar bill was passed by council with a 7-2 vote, but former Mayor Jenny Durkan refused to sign it, arguing that the bill created a spending problem. This year’s bill has not yet been signed by Mayor Bruce Harrell. Yet, even if the JumpStart bill is signed, CBOs will need much more support.
“Prior to this legislation, the housing developer needed to have experience developing housing. They needed to have operated at least three buildings, they needed to have secured permanent financing within five years, and they needed to be in good standing on Office of Housing loans,” said Mosqueda. “Well, if you’re just getting into this work because you see the need in your community, you’re not going to have that experience. So really, we tried to remove those covenants that said, ‘Hey, you have to partner with organizations who have that experience,’ which puts them not totally in the self-determination role.”
Velma Veloria, who works with the nonprofit, Filipino Community Center of Seattle (FCS), is familiar with these discriminatory policies. FCS’ properties include the Filipino Community Center (FCC) in Hillman City, remodeled in 2008, and their second building, Filipino Community Village (FCV), which was completed in 2021. FCV integrates social service programs and community spaces with 95 units of affordable housing for seniors. Despite this, the demand for affordable housing for families remained. FCV units are not big enough for the grandchildren of Village residents to stay overnight, so the FCC began to look for more land to develop a third housing complex. When the owner of the property next door to FCC said that they were ready to put the property on the market, they asked the FCC if they would like to buy it and gave them the right of first refusal.
Recounting the tedious process of raising funds to buy the land next door to the FCC, Veloria explained, “The City said that in order for us to get funding for land acquisition, we need to have built three buildings to be able to access the money. Then we went to the County and they said, ‘Well, we’re really concerned; we want to make it more equitable particularly for Communities of Color and for small organizations.’ That’s when this bill came up that Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda put forward. She said we need to change these policies so that more people have access to land acquisition.”
While Mosqueda’s goal to devote $24 million to CBOs is definitely a step in the right direction towards fighting displacement, when one considers that the Filipino Community Center spent around $32 million on their senior housing complex, it can be understood that $24 million split between several organizations is simply not enough.
Yet because the Community Self-Determination Fund is based on a percentage of the JumpStart tax, its amount is projected to increase every year. According to Mosqueda, “JumpStart is projected to bring in $230 million this year … We anticipate that that’s going to be closer to $270 or $280 million next year. And the percentage that goes to housing will then keep growing year over year, and thus, the percentage that goes to this specific Self-Determination Fund grows year over year.”
Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), a potential partner organization for the fund, hopes that the JumpStart bill will promote genuine collaboration between the City and CBOs. “The City is committed to supporting organizations like ours to claim the land and to build housing for our community,” said Jamie Lee, director of Community Initiatives. “I think it will be more of a partnership and less of us having to prove ourselves, or [having to] apply for that grant and wait for the response and all that stuff that happens when you apply for private dollars — and sometimes public dollars as well.”
The Community Self-Determination Fund could also provide much-needed early support for organizations that need capacity-building and technical assistance.
“If we start giving funding on the early end and then they can go to other lenders and get additional dollars, we’ve created the stability that the organization needs to tell another lender, ‘You too should be a lender; the City of Seattle has trusted us,’” explained Mosqueda. “We shouldn’t be putting these organizations in the position of having to prove themselves to the banks first, and then come to the City. We should be investing in the public good for these nonprofits who are trying to serve the community and then helping them get additional funding if needed.”
Affordable housing facilities serve the community by fighting displacement and housing insecurity, but they also create jobs and provide organizations with an opportunity to invest in community businesses.
“We’ve supported Black contractors to be able to participate in these projects. We have unprecedented participation of Black contractors in building the community,” said Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT) President and CEO Wyking Garrett.
Africatown Plaza broke ground in February 2022 and will be complete in 2023. The affordable housing complex will contain 126 units for singles and families; it recently received the 2022 Gold Nugget Grand Award for Best On-the-Boards Affordable Housing Community. ACLT was one of the businesses named by Mosqueda’s office as a potential recipient of Community Self-Determination Funds; the success of Africatown and their tenants showcase the vast potential of Seattle’s BIPOC-led businesses.
“Communion opened, and in one year, was recognized as one of the best new restaurants that opened in the world,” Garrett said, of one of the tenants of the Liberty Bank Building, which was developed by Community Roots Housing in partnership with ACLT, Black Community Impact Alliance (BCIA), and Byrd Barr Place. “This is the brilliance; the talent that is in our community — but without space, without opportunity, without resources, that potential can’t be fully realized.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated on July 29, 2022 with accurate information around Africatown Plaza and the Liberty Bank Building.
Lauryn Bray is a writer and developmental editor at South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.
📸 Featured Image: Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda speaks at the JumpStart Housing press conference at Plaza Roberto Maestas in Beacon Hill. (Photo: Jesse Franz and Joseph Peha, Seattle City Council)
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