Seattle needs more, and more varied, solutions to address our ever-growing housing and homelessness crisis — and I-135 gives us another tool in the toolbox. Our current solutions are insufficient and we’re seeing it across our city. The number of unhoused people in Seattle continues to be on the rise since homelessness was declared a state of emergency in 2015, and shows signs of getting worse in the economic aftermath of COVID-19. In 2021, 47% of Seattle renters paid 30% or more of their income toward housing, the point at which many housing advocates consider a household to be rent-burdened. In 2022, King County saw 13,000 people unhoused in a single night. I-135 presents a new solution to address Seattle’s crises of displacement and homelessness.
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.
In December 2022, King County and Chief Seattle Club announced that the Salmonberry Lofts in Pioneer Square became the fifth Health Through Housing building to begin moving tenants in. The Health Through Housing initiative is a “regional approach to address chronic homelessness at a countywide scale.” Introduced by King County Executive Dow Constantine in his 2020 budget speech, the Health Through Housing initiative dedicates one-tenth of a cent of sales tax revenue to the purchase and renovation of motels, hotels, and other buildings to be converted to emergency and permanent housing.
On the corner of King Street and 8th Avenue South in the Chinatown-International District sits a new affordable housing development. Named after legendary community activist Robert “Uncle Bob” Santos, Uncle Bob’s Place features a large mural of Santos that overlooks the neighborhood.
Last year, President Joe Biden passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which included the release of 70,000 housing vouchers to U.S. cities experiencing high rates of homelessness. Through the Act, King County Housing Authority (KCHA) was granted 762 emergency housing vouchers and nearly $18.4 million in funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2021. As of Nov. 14, KCHA has reported that 756 of the 762 emergency housing vouchers, or 99%, have been leased.