My First 100 Days As Mayor: Housing Affordability Emergency Plan
Seattle is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Our skyrocketing rents, property taxes, and housing prices are symptoms of a larger systemic problem. As Mayor, I will not accept the conditions of this runaway market as inevitable, shrug my shoulders, and continue the work of applying band-aids to mitigate the most brutal impacts. I am the only candidate with hands-on experience in urban planning, and I’m the only one with substantive and concrete proposals to address our city’s housing affordability emergency.
Addressing Seattle’s housing emergency will be my top priority as Mayor, and I have a three-part plan to address the root causes in the first 100 days of my administration.
First, let’s accept this is a true emergency. More than half of Seattle renters pay more than they can reasonably afford for housing. Too many are living on the edge, just one unexpected bill away from not making rent and facing eviction. Every day I meet more people forced to move in search of affordable rents, uprooting children, families and destabilizing communities. Even current homeowners, especially those on fixed incomes, aren’t sure if they can shoulder increasing property taxes. People of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants and seniors are are hit first and hit hardest by this crisis, burdened with the toxic stress of not being able to afford the rent and being pushed out of the city they have called home. Seattle is quickly becoming a city of haves and have nots. That is not who we are or who we want to be.
People who work in Seattle should be able to afford to live in Seattle. If we don’t solve this problem now, in just a few years the majority of Seattle’s workforce — and our children — will be forced to live outside the city, spending even more time sitting in traffic and less time living their lives.
HALA was a good first step but we need a much more assertive plan if we expect to change course. We have to change the dynamics causing this condition, or we’ll never get ahead of it. We need to be bold and creative, experiment with solutions, be honest about effectiveness, and then scale up only what works.
Seattle has the tools to start fixing this problem; we just need the collective will and courage to stop favoring the interests of profiteers and start putting people and families first.
As Mayor, within the first 100 days of my administration, I will:
1. CALL EMERGENCY HOUSING SUMMIT: Convene an emergency housing summit with national and international experts. As Mayor, I will convene experts to work together to identify immediate solutions based on data, effectiveness, and viability, rather than on the demands of outside corporate interests. The Emergency Housing Summit will be based on these principles:
· Safe housing is a human right, as essential to our survival as food and water.
· Seattle is facing an emergency that demands deep and transformative change.
· Recognize that communities of color, low-income families, seniors, young people, immigrants and LGBTQ people are being hit hardest.
· Commit to working together to identify the most effective, innovative and viable solutions.
2. LEVERAGE THE DATA: It is a fact that speculators and non-resident profiteers are driving up prices and exacerbating Seattle’s housing crisis, but we don’t know the real depth or dynamic of this problem because no one wants to look. As Mayor, I will order the immediate collection and analysis of this critical information. This information would include the number of housing units bought by corporations, shell companies and private equity firms and the number of homes not purchased as a primary residence so we can get a clear picture of the impact speculation is having on the market.
3. DRIVE REAL SOLUTIONS: As Mayor, I will engage staff and experts in analyzing the legal viability and efficacy of a range of immediate actions, including:
· Curtail speculation by taxing corporate and non-resident owners, taxing unoccupied housing, and adding an additional REET on luxury property and a capital gains tax on sales of non-primary residences.
· Work with Renters Commission to identity best practices in both rent stabilization and eviction prevention.
· Identify ways to incentivize Community Land Trusts and limited equity co-ops.
· Identify specific approaches with communities of color to guide equitable development, reduce displacement, to ensure communities can thrive in place
· Increase funding in the non-profit housing pipeline, by increasing the state housing trust fund and partnering with city’s largest employers to help pay for new affordable housing.
· Free up surplus public land for use as affordable housing.
· Expand property tax relief for a broader range of Seattleites and examine alternative ways to determine assessed values.
· Remove barriers to build housing for the missing middle, our working middle class.
As Mayor, I am committed to a vision of Seattle that is welcoming, inclusive, creative, and committed to shared prosperity for all of us, and will rally us all to identify the road map and implement the bold solutions to get there.
Learn more about this issue in a 4-part series I co-wrote with Charles Mudede for the Stranger: