Sawant and the People’s Budget rallies for increased funding for affordable housing, shelters

Socialist Alternative Party community organizer Kailyn Nicholson introduces Council member Kshama Sawant as the first speaker at the People’s Budget 2018 at Seattle City Hall, Saturday, October 6, 2018. This was Sawant’s fifth year hosting the People’s Budget. (Image: Ryan Phelan)

By Ryan Phelan, UW News Lab/Special to CHS

Concerns for affordable housing, homeless shelters, tenants rights, workplace protections and Indigenous Peoples Day stoked criticism of the mayor’s proposed budget at the People’s Budget rally hosted by District 3 representative Kshama Sawant on Saturday.

“This budget that Mayor Durkan has proposed this year is not even a business as usual budget,” said Kailyn Nicholson, a community organizer for Socialist Alternative, Sawant’s political party. “This budget is even worse than that. This budget is flat out regressive.”

The People’s Budget, hosted at City Hall, is a political movement that rallies yearly for progressive change in the proposed Seattle budget. Several speakers and attendees focused on affordable housing initiatives. Less than 1% of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed budget is allocated for affordable housing, Sawant said. Continue reading

In midst of $5.9B Seattle budget process, proponents hope $100k+ needed for Capitol Hill homelessness outreach doesn’t get lost in the shuffle

With the Seattle budget process fully in motion, a coalition of groups representing three central city neighborhoods including Capitol Hill is working the phones and inboxes at City Hall to increase funding for homelessness outreach spending to help people living on the street in areas like Broadway and Pike/Pine get services and, hopefully, a safe place to find shelter and help.

Egan Orion of the Broadway Business Improvement Area said the group is “pushing to get more robust funding” and hopes to “lessen the burden on the neighborhood to fund” the outreach workers. The shops, restaurants, schools, and organizations he represents need the support and outreach, Orion says, is a better way to help the people struggling with homelessness and addiction in the neighborhood.

“Right now the only number they can call is 911 which isn’t effective because many business owners and employees are not wanting to contribute to criminalizing homelessness,” Orion said. “So this helps us get back to a saner system.” Continue reading

New ‘Leaves of Remembrance’ mark Broadway with memorials for those who died homeless

The bronze Broadway Dance Steps have been a mostly fun reminder of joy and frolic on Capitol Hill’s main drag. They have now been joined by a more somber reminder of the people who have lived and died on the streets of the neighborhood.

Sunday, All Pilgrims Church hosted a dedication for six new “Leaves of Remembrance,” a Seattle-wide project to mark the city with small, leaf-shaped memorials for people who have passed away while dealing with homelessness. Continue reading

Seattle Fire handles another Capitol Hill ‘derelict’ building fire

Seattle Fire spent the second morning in a row battling a stubborn fire in a reported abandoned building slated for demolition on Capitol Hill.

Tuesday morning, smoke was reported coming from a three-story “derelict” house along the Melrose connector trail near Bellevue Pl E around 7:15 AM. Arriving crews found a fire in the void space between the second and third floors. SFD reported the fire nearly under control after around 20 minutes at the scene but crews continued to work through the morning to fully extinguish the fire in the old house’s walls.

Continue reading

Study of Seattle evictions shows disproportionate impacts to women, Black renters

CHS found a woman’s possessions spread across a parking strip off 12th Ave after a 2017 eviction (Image: CHS)

A newly released report from the commission that has Mayor Jenny Durkan’s ear on women’s issues in the city digs into a year’s worth of data around evictions in Seattle and shows that women tenants make up more than 80% of cases in which a small amount of money costs a renter their home in Seattle. The study of 2017 eviction cases in the Seattle city limits also shows how unfair the process is to Black renters who are evicted at a rate 4.5 times what would be expected based on Seattle demographics. Meanwhile, more than 17% of the city’s 1,218 evictions came here in the neighborhoods of Seattle City Council District 3 — the third highest total in the study. By ZIP Code, one of the largest clusters of evictions in the city in 2017 came in the 98122 area covering the Central District.

“Eviction proceedings, also known as ‘unlawful detainers,’ are scheduled every day in the King County Superior Court, and while this eviction machine is unseen by the majority of the city, the results reverberate far outside the courthouse,” the report from the Seattle Women’s Commission and the Housing Justice Project begins. “While a month of unpaid rent might be an inconvenience for a landlord, an eviction can mean life or death for a tenant. National research shows eviction is one of the leading causes of homelessness.”

The groups held a press conference to announce the findings — and the study’s conclusions on what to do about the impact of evictions — Thursday morning at Seattle City Hall. The Housing Justice Project is a homelessness prevention program providing legal services for low-income tenants facing eviction while the Seattle Women’s Commission is an advisory body to the mayor, city council, and City Hall departments.

Gina Owens talked about life as a single mother renting in Seattle and what happened when she and her daughter were evicted. “One emergency, one missed paycheck” is the difference between a home and living in the streets in Seattle, she said.

A full copy of the report is below but here are some of the main findings: Continue reading

Report looks at how best to deal with Seattle’s vacant buildings — including ideas for temporary housing

The notorious “Biohazard House” of Belmont Ave

Seattle’s relentless redevelopment also means loads of buildings sitting vacant as developers line up permits and financing windows open and close and open again.

Wednesday morning, the Seattle City Council will receive a report on proposals for better monitoring of Seattle’s vacant buildings including how the city might penalize landlords who let their properties turn into dangerous eyesores and, better yet, how it might strengthen early efforts to connect vacant properties to organizations that can help put them to use providing temporary but much needed housing. Continue reading

As it plans next budget, Seattle will have new committee dedicated to homelessness

The Seattle City Council’s first ever committee dedicated strictly to homelessness has been created just as City Hall prepares for the annual budget process.

“As President of the Council, I feel compelled to change our approach to coordinating and communicating to the public about the city’s homelessness response. While we have made progress with our standing committees that oversee the Human Services Department in defining outcomes and reporting and executing a plan, the public demands more. With that in mind, I am proposing a new and more centralized approach through a committee of all nine Councilmembers focused on this issue,” council president Bruce Harrell said in the announcement of the new body. Continue reading

#seahomeless — ‘Two or three here, 20 there,’ the city’s march to 500 beds includes Hill, CD

A plan to increase Seattle’s shelter capacity by 500 beds is playing out around Capitol Hill and the Central District.

On May 30, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a plan to increase shelter space for people experiencing homelessness by 500 beds within 90 days. The plan, called the Path to 500, uses a multi-pronged approach, including increasing the space at City Hall, constructing tiny home villages, and adding funding for shelter space that had been set to close at the end of May, among other strategies.

The plan is funded, for now, by the proceeds of a $6.3 million sale of city-owned property in South Lake Union. The Seattle Times reported that Durkan plans to find other funding sources to maintain the beds going forward.

The plan is playing out in small ways all across the city, said Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the city’s Human Services Department. She said the city has been working with providers to find ways they can add extra beds. ‘Whatever you can squeeze in,” she said. “Two or three here, 20 there.”

Some of those beds are finding their way to our area of the city including additions at places like 19th Ave’s Peace for the Streets, by Kids from the Streets, and E Madison’s Bailey-Boushay House. Continue reading

If you hear somebody talking ‘Comp Plan’ in your favorite Capitol Hill cafe, it’s probably Housing Now shaping plan to take on Seattle’s restrictive zoning

Housing Now is a small group on a big mission

While the repealed Employee Hours Tax was not a Housing Now campaign, the Seattle group has learned from mistakes that were made. With new understanding of how things get done — or don’t — in Seattle, the group has vowed to take on the city’s restrictive zoning laws.

“The Comprehensive Plan stems from the Growth Management Act at the state level which requires every city and county to designate growth areas.” Housing Now’s Alex Broner said in a Sunday afternoon meeting earlier this month on 12th Ave across from Seattle University. “They took our already exclusive zoning system in 1994 and codified it into the City Comprehensive Plan.” Continue reading

What’s next for Seattle’s head tax? Sawant pivoting on ‘Tax Amazon Movement’ after repeal

Even as they voted to repeal it, Seattle City Council members said Tuesday that an employee hours tax is probably the city’s best route forward to creating an alternative, non-regressive revenue stream to combat Seattle’s affordability crisis. The moves begin, now, to come up with a new, stronger tax plan.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, who has claimed the “Tax Amazon movement” as a follow-up to the successful $15 minimum wage fight, will be first out of the gates for shaping what comes next, saying Tuesday in council chambers that a “Tax Amazon Movement: Campaign Launch & Organizing Conference” is still happening. Continue reading