[Editors Note: Jacob Schear is a renter in Wallingford, and an organizer for Real Change News and the House Our Neighbors! Yes on Initiative 135 for social housing in Seattle.
His co-author is Meera Lee Sethi is a Ph.D ecologist, Seattleite of 9 years, and a Wallingford homeowner.
Interested neighbors are encouraged to comment on this article or to inquire (at [email protected]) about submitting rebuttals.]
Do you shop at the Wallingford QFC? Drop your kids off at school at Hamilton Middle School or Lincoln High School? Get takeout from restaurants on 45th street? If you live in Wallingford, you experience the impacts of Seattle’s housing and affordability crisis everyday. Those of us who are securely and comfortably housed are witness to how our fellow Seattleites are forced to live outside due to our city’s failure to ensure housing as a human right, and how our unhoused neighbors continue to be destabilized and isolated through ineffective and inhumane campaigns of displacement known as sweeps.
Yet there are less obvious signs of our housing crisis, as well: A QFC grocery worker might be living in their car and planning to move where the weather is warmer (1 in 7 Kroger employees experienced homelessness in 2021) Teachers at our local public schools are being displaced by rent hikes at their apartments, and may have to commute from outside Seattle to their jobs. The folks who own and work at our beloved restaurants on 45th Street may be one unexpected expense away from housing instability or being unable to pay rent. Perhaps you yourself worry whether your child will be able to afford to live in Seattle once they are out of the house. To comprehensively address our housing crisis, we must look all around us, and acknowledge and respond to all of the ways the housing crisis impacts all of us who live, work, or enjoy spending time in Wallingford—and the unique vulnerability we each face as Seattle continues to become more and more unaffordable. We are writing this from our perspective as Wallingford residents: Jacob is a renter and organizer for Real Change and the House Our Neighbors! Yes on I-135 for social housing campaign, and Meera, who works in education and conservation, has owned a home in Wallingford since 2015. We strongly believe that voting Yes on Initiative 135 is Wallingford’s best chance to address the root causes and the pipeline into homelessness–the cost of housing—and to move towards a more equitable, safe, and vibrant Wallingford for all.
In the past week, you should have received your ballot for Initiative 135. This initiative (which you will want to vote Yes for by February 14th) would create the Seattle Social Housing Developer, a Public Development Authority (PDA) with the ability to build, acquire and maintain permanently affordable, mixed income social housing throughout Seattle funded through municipal bonding and cross-subsidization. Social housing is an internationally successful model of affordable housing seen throughout the world, with a proven track record of reducing housing unaffordability, homelessness, and rent burden. In countries such as Austria, Singapore (where Meera grew up), France, Uruguay, and yes, here in the United States, social housing plays a major part in housing people from all walks of life.
Initiative 135 would create affordable housing available to folks making 0-120% of the Area Median Income, with no one paying more than, at most, a third of their income in rent—the point at which people are defined as “rent- burdened”. At the 0-30% scale of the income threshold, this includes clients of Solid Ground (an early endorser of I-135 headquartered in Wallingford), our neighbors coming in from living outside and low income seniors who live on social security. From 30-50% of the income threshold, this means housing for childcare workers at our local daycares, grocery store workers at QFC, or the people who drive our kids’ school buses. The 51-80% range will serve USPS mail carriers, the librarians and library workers at Wallingford Public Library, the bus driver who drives the 44, and early career public school teachers. And by including Seattleites making 80-120% of the area median income, we can create affordable housing for folks like UW social workers, dental hygienists at our local dentist’s office, and mid to late career public school teachers who work at Lincoln and Hamilton.
Initiative 135 gives Wallingford, and all of Seattle, the opportunity to move towards housing as a human right, and lead the way in creating groundbreaking legislation to address our affordability and homelessness crisis head on. By voting yes on Initiative 135, you can play a crucial part in creating a more equitable neighborhood, and city—where all of our neighbors are housed in a collective effort, and where we act in solidarity with each other to ensure livability and true community safety and health. Vote yes on Initiative 135 by February 14th.