Photo depicting housing and some other buildings along a hillside in Seattle.,

Seattle Will Vote on Creation of New ‘Social Housing’ Authority in 2023

by Justin Carder

(This article originally appeared on the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

The backers of I-135 to create a new public developer “to build, acquire, own, and manage social housing” in Seattle say they have successfully gathered enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot — but the vote won’t come until 2023.

“Voters across Seattle will now get the opportunity to vote for a new intervention to our affordable housing approach,” the House Our Neighbors! group said in a statement. “We are on the brink of establishing a public developer to create housing for folks who are in the 0-120% AMI bracket, where restorative justice measures must be implemented — no more punitive evictions.”

Backers say their proposed ballot initiative would establish a developer to create more rental housing options in the city, powered by public funding and protected from free-market influences and City and County restrictions.

Unlike the existing Seattle Housing Authority, which typically serves only low-income residents, backers of the House Our Neighbors! proposal say the new authority would be free of federal constraints on income levels and could be made available to renters with earnings ranging from 0% to 120% of area median income to help create a diverse pool of tenants across the authority’s properties.

Starting the authority would be funded by the City budget with ongoing funding to be determined from local and state sources. The City Council would be required to sort out how to fund the department with the option to pursue bonds for the public developer.

Photo depicting the stairway entrance to the Madkin apartment building.
The Madkin is being held up as an example where a public housing authority could save affordable housing in the city. (Photo courtesy of the Madkin Tenant Association.)

The House Our Neighbors! coalition is led by Real Change and was formed last summer in opposition to the so-called Compassion Seattle initiative, as a response to the proposal that would have paired tough new restrictions on encampments with more money for shelters and services.

House Our Neighbors! turned in around 30,000 signatures in June, but too many were rejected by King County Elections to qualify for the ballot. In a second push, the group secured the number necessary to push its totals above the threshold.

The vote on the initiative is now likely to be included on the February ballot.

The recent effort to sell a long-held Capitol Hill apartment building to new investors has been held up as an example where the authority could have intervened to purchase the Madkin Apartments and preserve them as affordable housing.

In the meantime, the November ballot will include votes on the battle for King County Prosecutor — retiring prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s Chief of Staff Leesa Manion would be the first woman and Person of Color to serve in the role, while Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell would bring a throwback, “tough on crime” approach to the office. November’s ballot will also include dueling proposals for changing the format used to elect Seattle’s mayor and City Council candidates in primaries.

Justin Carder is the editor and founder of the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

📸 Featured Image: Photo by Zayn Shah on Unsplash

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