Sawant says she will make new push on Seattle rent control, ordinance against ‘Economic Evictions’

(Image: Seattle City Council)

Building on recommendations from the Seattle Renters’ Commission, City Council member Kshama Sawant announced two measures Monday aimed would alleviate some of the burden for Seattle renters. The first is a proposal to enact a Seattle rent control ordinance. The second, the Economic Evictions Assistance Ordinance, would look to protect tenants against substantial rent increases.

“We have two choices,” Sawant said at a Monday morning press conference at City Hall to announce her planned proposals. “One, just sit on our hands and expect that some day, in the distant future, the Democratic establishment will gather the courage to break from the real estate lobby and finally stand with us. We’ve done that kind of waiting for 40 years.”

“Or we can begin the fight here.” Continue reading

An ‘unheard of concession’ in the Central District at The Chateau apartments

A resident at The Chateau and the building’s long-broken lift
(Image: CHS)

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant was back outside The Chateau apartments Wednesday to announce victories for the building’s tenants and what she says is a tenants movement in Seattle inspired by the work of her City Council office and her Socialist Alternative political group.

Sawant’s Wednesday rally also included an unusual finale — a four-member team from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections there to follow-up on a massive roster of repairs identified in what has become a staircase by staircase, frayed wire by frayed wire, and missing and or defective smoke detector by missing and or defective smoke detector battle pitting the city councilor against developer Cadence Real Estate.

Calling the 19th Ave building and the Central District the “core of Seattle” and the “epicenter of the crisis of economic evictions,” Sawant announced that her efforts to shed light on Cadence’s acquisition and planned redevelopment of the Section 8 building had “forced” the developer to meet with residents and make several concessions including allowing the Section 8 tenants to remain in their units in coming years until the building is eventually demolished to make way for a new microhousing project with 73 “small efficiency dwelling units.”

Sawant also announced what she said was an “unheard of concession” — $5,000 from Cadence to every household living in the building on top of legally required relocation assistance. The small group of tenants and representatives from groups like Be:Seattle that have also been working with the building’s interested residents gathered with Sawant cheered at the notion of the $5,000 checks. Sawant said the agreement with Cadence, as of Wednesday, still needed to be written down. Continue reading

Next affordable project for Capitol Hill Housing? Station House

CHS began the week with coverage of hope for a new start in the Central District with the opening of the equitably developed affordable housing and mixed-use project, the Liberty Bank Building. We also noted that Africatown and nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing were looking forward to another possible collaboration with a new Africatown Plaza project at 23rd and Spring.

But CHH’s next addition to the area’s housing mix will come at Capitol Hill Station.

Station House will create 110 homes affordable for “working families” – people making roughly between $19,000 to $55,000, depending on family size. “Units will be a mixture of studios, one, two and three bedroom units,” Capitol Hill Housing says. “The first floor will include a 1,400 square foot community space open to the neighborhood.”

The project is currently under construction at 10th and John on the northeast corner of the housing, community plaza, and retail development rising around the light rail station. CHH says the final concrete deck will be poured in early April and then the wood framing will go up. The project is currently expected to be complete in spring of 2020.

Capitol Hill Housing is also working on plans for new affordable, LGBTQ-friendly housing for low-income seniors at 14th and Union.

Last week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the city’s new expansion of its Mandatory Housing Affordability expansion into law in the lobby of Capitol Hill Housing’s 12th Ave Arts building.

Kenton Apartments tenants say they’re facing another Capitol Hill ‘economic eviction’

(Image: Milestone Tenants Fight Back)

A group of tenants is hoping to organize against the new owners of the 1926-built Capitol Hill brick apartment building they call home and fight back against what they say is an “economic eviction” underway on 16th Ave E.

“Tenants have been here as long as 11 years and we’re invested in staying in our homes in a way that is affordable and sustainable,” the Milestone Tenants Fight Back group writes. “We know the only way to do this is through our collective action and with the support of our broader community. In other words, we want to stay and fight!”

According to King County records, a company operated by Milestone Properties closed its purchase of the Kenton Apartments for $4.6 million in late January. The owner and manager of apartments in Seattle’s University District, Queen Anne, Greenwood, Interbay, Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Wallingford neighborhoods purchased the 300-block 16th Ave E property from its longtime family owners. Continue reading

‘Replanting’ — Liberty Bank Building’s opening hoped to be new start in the Central District

More than 100 new affordable homes — and the start of what many hope will be a wave of equitable development across the Central District — are now full of life in the Liberty Bank Building. The development led by nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing and community development group Africatown celebrated with a ribbon cutting, party, and tours Saturday at 24th and Union.

“This neighborhood and this street means so much to me,” building contractor, neighborhood activist, and, now, Liberty Bank Building resident Ted Evans said. “It’s just surreal to be able to live here and raise my son and be part of this redevelopment and being part of this creation that we’re starting, you know, to bring it back home. This is where I started — I was born here.”

“There is power here,” Evans said. Continue reading

Celebrate equitable, affordable development in the Central District at Liberty Bank Building ribbon cutting

The Liberty Bank Building, what many hope will be a model for equitable, affordable development in Seattle, will celebrate its opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday in the Central District.

Liberty Bank Building Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Saturday’s party will include live music and performances, and food.

Named to honor the region’s first Black-owned bank that once stood at the corner, the six-story, 115-unit affordable housing development is a collaboration between Capitol Hill HousingAfricatownThe Black Community Impact Alliance, and Byrd Barr Place. Continue reading

Seattle passes Mandatory Housing Affordability plan to allow its densest neighborhoods to become even denser

A North Capitol Hill resident made his case against Eastlake upzoning prior to Monday’s vote

Four years and 40 Seattle City Council meetings later, the plan to surgically allow taller and more multifamily-packed development in the city’s densest neighborhoods including Capitol Hill has been approved.

“We’re embracing growth by embracing inclusion,” council member and Mandatory Housing Affordability committee chair Rob Johnson said Monday before the vote. “And we’re embracing inclusion by changing plans that were made 25 years ago.”

The vote Monday ran 9-0.

The MHA plan ties upzones in 27 of the city’s densest neighborhoods to the creation of affordable units and will transition a reported 6% of Seattle’s current single family-zoned property. Continue reading

Capitol Hill homeowners mount last-ditch effort against MHA upzoning… in Eastlake

The view from Harvard Ave E (Image: CHS)

They know they are probably too late. They know that after a multi-year journey of hearings, community meetings, public comment, and legal challenges, the Seattle City Council wants the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation, which connects affordability mandates to upzoning parts of the city’s densest neighborhoods, to reach its destination during a final vote Monday afternoon. Perhaps they even know Monday’s vote is basically pro forma, as council members have worked on it for years and voted unanimously to advance the legislation last month.

And, yet, a group of North Capitol Hill homeowners, along with the Eastlake Community Council, is trying to fight the upzoning of a seven-block-long (and mostly half a block-deep) sliver of I-5-bordering properties in Eastlake. The amendment for zoning increase, from low-rise to mid-rise with a height limit of 80’ on Boylston Ave. E and a short stretch of Franklin Ave. E was recently introduced and approved by the city council as part of a series of amendments that scaled back upzones across neighborhoods and increased some others. Continue reading

Seattle anti-displacement legislation focused on high risk, low opportunity areas — So, not Capitol Hill

As the Seattle City Council moves toward a vote later this month to finalize the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability plan, legislation to buttress the program with extra protections against displacement in Seattle’s most vulnerable neighborhoods will begin moving forward Wednesday at City Hall.

Sponsored by West Seattle rep Lisa Herbold, the anti-displacement legislation will be taken up by the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee. Despite the Capitol Hill and Central District area’s high potential for displacement from continued redevelopment, Central Seattle’s many resources including jobs, high performing schools, and robust levels of transit would disqualify it from the proposed legislation’s protections. Continue reading

Born on Capitol Hill, Tenant Rights Bootcamps training renters for change in Seattle

(Image: Be:Seattle)

Devin Silvernail always starts with the basics: Read your lease, and know exactly what’s in it before you sign it. Document everything. Do everything in writing (and no, texting does not count). That’s the “tenant rights 101” many of us know.

But did you know that there’s a ban on source of income discrimination in Seattle? Or that landlords are prohibited by law to screen tenants based on criminal convictions? Or that there’s a cap on move-in fees for renters can be charged? That you can organize in a renters union in your building?

In the grand scheme of things, not that many people do. Silvernail, who organizes Tenant Rights Bootcamps all around Seattle, thinks they should. That’s why he’s made informing renters of their rights part of his life’s work. “Knowing your rights is a really powerful tool,” he says. “You can recognize when a situation isn’t good when you’re unjustly evicted or taken advantage of, or owed relocation assistance.”

When we get Silvernail on the phone, he’s out walking around Capitol Hill — where renters, including Silvernail himself, are the majority — posting bright yellow flyers up for an upcoming Tenant Rights Bootcamp this Wednesday, March 6 at Capitol Hill’s Wildrose bar. The event, geared towards the LGBTQ+ community, is co-organized with the Gender Justice League, the Tenants Union of Washington and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant who is running for reelection this year.

LGBTQ Community Tenant Rights Bootcamp

“A lot of LGBTQ+ folks wonder about background checks. If folks haven’t had the same name their whole lives, how does that affect them? Can their landlord refuse them? We can quell fears around that, as well as around discrimination and protected classes,” Silvernail says while the stapler clicks punctuate his words.

“Still, 99% of the workshop will apply to anyone, and open to everyone who wants to come.” Continue reading