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With ballots out, here’s where District 3 candidates stand on housing and affordability

A view from a Pike/Pine crane

Kshama Sawant once again took on corporations and challenger Egan Orion was a no show in a forum on housing and homelessness Monday downtown, posing next month’s election as one between a champion of the working class against a business-backed candidate.

“Amazon, big business, the [Seattle Metropolitan] Chamber of Commerce are engaged in an attempted hostile corporate takeover of this election,” Sawant said. “They want to flip City Hall to the right.”

Sawant has made this pitch at countless forums in the past several months, but this time her opponent wasn’t there to defend himself. Challenger Orion didn’t attend the forum despite being listed as confirmed to attend on the organizer’s website. The Broadway Business Improvement Area head — who has been the beneficiary of more than $163,000 in independent expenditures from the Amazon-funded Chamber’s political action committee in the general election — didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

On housing, Sawant highlighted her controversial push for citywide residential rent control, which she has pushed despite little momentum in Olympia to overturn the statewide ban on the practice.

“It is going to be the most important citywide anti-displacement strategy because people who are homeless now or economically evicted now, today, will be economically evicted next year, next month, even next week,” Sawant said, after also calling for commercial rent control and ending sweeps of homeless encampments. 

“This is inevitable given the skyrocketing rents.”

She noted the uphill battle to get this implemented, saying she would need an “all mighty movement.”

In past interviews, Orion has told CHS that he thinks Oregon’s rent stabilization, which limits rent increases to 7% annually plus inflation and exempts new construction for 15 years, would be a “more balanced remedy” than Sawant’s plan.

“Council member Sawant’s proposed rent control plan – released six weeks before the election after six years of talking about it – is unworkable,” Orion said in a statement in late September after the incumbent released her draft legislation. “Not only is it illegal under state law, but it’s also not a solution to the issues at hand.”

Orion also believes renters should have three month notice periods on any rent increases.

Orion, who talks often of his desire to enshrine shelter as a human right into city law, has called for a vacancy tax on empty units to build a fund to get people into temporary and permanent supportive housing.

To avoid this tax, Orion says property management companies could opt into a program that provides housing that is usually rented at market-rate at affordable housing pricing. This would include subsidies from the fund juiced by vacancy tax dollars.

Orion would also like to see increased shelter beds, which he would pay for through a one-year increase in the hotel occupancy tax.

The added revenue, estimated at $50 million, would go directly to building and maintaining shelter.

“Those experiencing homelessness need 24/7 shelters so they aren’t forced back onto the streets in the morning,” Orion’s website reads. “All new and existing shelters should be a place to access services, get stable, get fed, and get on the path to permanent housing.”

He would work with King County, as well, to bond $500 million to create 1,500 units of supportive housing for those who are chronically homeless, which would be paid for with general fund dollars over a 20-year period.

Sawant repeated several times throughout the forum her call for a massive expansion of social housing funded through the employee hours tax, or head tax, on Seattle’s biggest businesses that was quickly repealed after the council originally passed it last year.

“We don’t need more research into what options we have,” Sawant said, calling the head tax the “epitome of a progressive tax.”

Sawant cited the displacement of the LGBTQ+ community in Capitol Hill and the African-American community in the Central District as reasons those neighborhoods should receive increased affordable housing.

She also noted that accessibility and environmental stability through increased density and renewable energy need to be priorities in conversations around housing while affordability remains the focal point.

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Sawant used attacks on big business to book end the 75-minute forum.

“We are in the last two weeks of the election; the outcome of this election will decide which direction the city will go. We have, on the one hand, the vast majority of working people, middle-class homeowners, renters, united in this that we need to make our city equitable and affordable for everybody,” she said. “On the other side, we have all these big corporations that are funneling so much money into corporate PACs this year that this year has become historic.”

“Seattle is a test lab. If we let them do it here, they will do it in other cities.”

The forum, which included candidates from five districts across Seattle, was hosted by the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on Homelessness, its Housing Task Force, and The Urbanist.

Ballots were sent out last week and drop boxes are now open. Election day is November 5, with ballots due by 8 p.m that day. That being said, Sawant and Orion are still on the forum circuit. Africatown Community Land Trust, for example, is hosting an event with the candidates on Friday night at the Central Area Senior Center.

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14 thoughts on “With ballots out, here’s where District 3 candidates stand on housing and affordability

  1. Being incredibly unqualified to speak on any of the issues mentioned at the forum Orion was no doubt ordered not to attend by his corporate overlords

  2. Nothing I enjoy more in the morning than a cup of coffee and the smell of socialists panicking. Giddy up D3!

  3. ‘Ordered not to attend’, HA! Where do you think all of Sawant’s campaign funds come from? Not Seattle, she is funded by her comrades outside of Seattle. Follow the money for sure. Sawant supports seem just as blind and ignorant as Trump supporters.

    • It’s so interesting to see a resurgence of McCarthyism in Seattle. Some teacher who read Elizabeth Warren’s tweet about the election and chipped in $15 or whatever must a “comrade,” and somehow that legitimizes corporations spending millions to uproot the grassroots progressive. Such craziness. Sawant has received far more donations in Seattle than Orion.

      • You are wrong about Sawant receiving more Seattle donations than Orion. According to the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission, as of October 20, Orion received $346,226 from within Seattle. Sawant has received $226,032, which is less. She has, however, received over $188,000 from OUTSIDE of Seattle.

      • @CalAnderson, so tired of hearing this narrative. Below is a breakout of the individual contributions funding Ms. Sawant’s and Mr. Orion’s campaigns. Ms. Sawant’s campaign is significantly funded by individuals residing outside our district. She has raised about $221k from people within ALL of Seattle and $188k from folks living outside our city – the $188k figure dwarfs the $113k she’s raised from people in our district. Mr. Orion on the other hand has raised $230k from people living in our district ALONE – he raised $335K from residents citywide. Of the $335k Mr. Orion has raised from Seattle residents, $129k has come from democracy vouchers. He is 2nd among all candidates city wide in voucher funding received. Ms. Sawant of course has received $0 in democracy vouchers.

        Orion’s contributions received:
        + District 3 Residents $230,206
        + Rest of Seattle Residents: $114,962
        + Individuals Outside City Limits: $34,108

        Sawant’s contributions received:
        + Individuals Outside City Limits: $188,301
        + District 3 Residents: $112,848
        + Rest of Seattle Residents: $97,792

  4. Not a single word about upzoning…WTF?

    Sawant’s “solution” will be disastrous on the development community which needs to be incentivized not penalized more. Like it or not, we need to build more housing. All housing. Even the fancy stuff.

    Today’s expensive unit is tomorrow’s affordable unit.

  5. Sawant can barely drag herself to a forum about making police work better and Orion runs away when people want to talk about housing.
    Sorry, D3 – Whoever wins: You lose.

  6. The complaints about where the $ is coming from is really starting to sound like sawant supporters see what is coming, she will not be re elected so they are lining up the argument now as to why.
    If your candidate is the better qualified candidate, there is no number of flyers and posters that will change that.
    If sawant had agreed to utilize the voucher program then this could all be avoided, but when over 60% of your funding comes from out of state, the voucher program is a non starter.
    But agree with Longtime, please get out and vote.