Renters make up roughly 80% of Capitol Hill residents but organizers of an upcoming summit say most are left out of crucial public policy decisions. In an effort to kickstart a renter power movement in Seattle, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is holding its first Capitol Hill Renter Summit September 24th.
“It’s about giving the silent majority of the neighborhood a voice,” said EcoDistrict director Joel Sisolak.
The summit will feature issue briefings followed by breakout discussion groups. Leading up to the event, EcoDistrict organizers reached out to renters on Capitol Hill to head the discussions. Mayor Ed Murray will give an opening address, and House Speaker Frank Chopp and State Senator Jamie Pederson will join other local elected officials for a live Q&A session.
Sisolak hopes the summit will inspire a pipeline of building ambassadors that will see themselves as the rightful advocates for a crucial segment of Seattle’s population. “The renters summit is more of a launch than an endpoint,” he said.
You can RSVP for the free event here. The first 50 people to sign up get a free “renter power” t-shirt.
The summit is the first major undertaking of the EcoDistrict’s Capitol Hill Renter Initiative — a broader campaign to amplify the mostly dormant voices of Capitol Hill renters and insert their priorities into the city’s ongoing housing policy debates. Rather than fight back against some developer-homeowner agenda, Sisolak said the EcoDistrict wants to encourage renter identity as a pathway to local politics.
Housing policy has taken center stage at City Hall this year. On Tuesday, the Seattle City Council approved a slightly amended version of Murray’s “grand bargain,” where building size bonuses will be given for a payment or performance system that requires multi-family developers either make 5% to 8% of units income restricted or pay a fee into an affordable housing fund.
The renters summit and initiative marks a shift in the EcoDistrict’s strategy, which has largely centered around engaging public officials, property owners, and public and private institutions. “It’s a grass tops organizing model and we wanted to balance it with a grass roots organizing model,” Sisolak said.
The EcoDistrict is an initiative of Capitol Hill Housing, which earlier this year celebrated 40 years of serving the neighborhoods affordable housing needs.
City Council member Kshama Sawant, who represents District 3 and Capitol Hill, is not scheduled to make an appearance at the event. She has also been doing her part to organize a renters movement, particularly around the issue of rent control — a policy she strongly supports. Earlier this month, the City Council unanimously passed Sawant’s “slumlord” legislation, which prevents landlords from raising rents in poorly maintained buildings. Sawant said she would use the momentum to continue working towards a comprehensive tenants bill of rights.