by Ronnie Estoque
On Jan. 29, the 43rd District Democrats and Tech 4 Housing hosted a concert at Neumos that featured performances from various local artists such as Hollis, Tomo Nakayama, and Black Stax. The event was organized to galvanize support for the social housing-centered Initiative 135 (I-135), which will be decided by voters via ballot on Feb. 14 in a special election. The Yes on I-135 campaign is led by a Real Change political committee called House Our Neighbors.
“We have a golden opportunity in front of us to have, you know, an idea that is being tried by a really dedicated group of organizers in the city and Initiative 135 and trying to actually use public lands, keeping them in public hands and using the strength of a public development authority to build more social housing in the city,” Shaun Scott, policy lead at the Statewide Poverty Action Network, said.
If passed, I-135 would create the Seattle Social Housing Developer, a new public development authority (PDA) that would oversee the expansion and development of public housing across the city. A PDA is a special-purpose quasi-municipal corporation that allows local governments to create or contract with public corporations, commissions, or authorities.
“I’m happy to be here with y’all tonight. I’m grateful for each and every one of you here because we care about our neighbors. I know so many of our lives have been shaped by housing insecurity different times in our lives,” event emcee and KEXP DJ Larry Mizell Jr. said. “We’ve seen our city change so much … it’s been shaped dramatically by inequity. But we got to do everything we can to look out for each other and look out for our neighbors because this city is not functioning the way that it needs to.”
If passed by King County voters during the Feb. 14 special election, I-135 would require support from the city in its first 18 months for staffing and office space. It also calls for a “process for public lands to undergo a city feasibility study to determine housing need and whether the land should be transferred to the developer before considering the sale of said lands.”
A list of I-135’s endorsements can be viewed on the House Our Neighbors’ website, and includes key local labor, organizational, individual, and small business endorsements. Opponents to the measure previously included the Housing Development Consortium; however, in a statement to King 5 earlier in January, the consortium said it would be “remaining neutral on the ballot measure.”
“I have a very difficult time thinking outside of the market framework that I think has gotten us into a lot of the issues that we’re in right now,” said Scott, “with a very, very unaffordable city with People of Color subject to higher rates of displacement, exploding rents, people who are sleeping on the streets, when there’s no reason that that should be the case of a city and in a state that’s as rich as ours.”
Learn about how to vote during the Feb. 14 special election on King County Elections’ website.
Editors’ Note: A previous version of this article stated that the Housing Development Consortium and the Downtown Emergency Service Center were opponents of I-135. The article was updated on 02/03/2023 to more accurately reflect these organizations’ positions.
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured Image: Julie-C (left) performs on stage alongside Michaud Savage (right). (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
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