Case in point: CHS asked the leading candidates in this summer’s primary to decide what two candidates go on to the November General Election if they, after last summer’s turmoil and months of protest around the building, would support permanently closing the East Precinct at 12th and Pine. You might be surprised some said yes. You could also be surprised who — front-runners and City Council veterans Bruce Harrell and M. Lorena González — didn’t say no.
The answers, many long and nuanced, some short and to the point, to that question and four more key inquiries shaped earlier this month by CHS reader priorities — homelessness services, mental health services, housing affordability, and public safety and crime — are below.
Ballots are arriving for the all-mail primary vote and are due by 8 PM on August 3rd. You can drop them in a mailbox, of course, or stop by the King County Elections collection box on Broadway in front of Seattle Central. A map of all drop boxes can be found here. Official are predicting standard low summer turnout with expectations of around 40% participation.
We’ll also have answers to the same questions for city council candidates soon.
You can find all CHS Election 2021 coverage here.
2021 Primary Mayoral Candidates
|Clinton Bliss||M. Lorena González (CHS coverage)||Lance Randall|
|Henry Clay Dennison||Bruce Harrell (CHS coverage)||Don L. Rivers|
|James Donaldson||Andrew Grant Houston (CHS coverage)||Casey Sixkiller (CHS coverage)|
|Colleen Echohawk (CHS coverage)||Arthur K. Langlie (CHS coverage)||Omari Tahir-Garrett|
|Jessyn Farrell (CHS coverage)||Stan Lippmann||Bobby Tucker|
Question 1) The four highest priorities for CHS readers are homelessness services, mental health services, housing affordability, and public safety and crime. What are three to four specific existing city programs or teams that need increased funding that will address these priorities? What would you do to increase that funding?
ECHOHAWK: Those are four of my highest priorities as well. First, regarding homelessness services, it has been 5 years since the Mayor and City Council declared a state of emergency around homelessness. They pulled the fire alarm but didn’t send the fire trucks. It’s clear that those currently in office don’t possess the political will to solve this issue. We estimate that solving this issue would cost approximately $170 million. We can finance this through a variety of funding streams such as federal dollars, JumpStart tax and existing resources within the city budget. I will also launch a capital campaign with local philanthropy and business. Some aspects of my 22-point plan include 100 outreach workers in the City, investing in all sorts of emergency housing, and a dramatic increase in mental health services. We will also pursue other revenue measures such as an unearned income tax to help provide more services. When it comes to housing affordability, we must increase the density of our City quickly. We need to make duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes legal in every neighborhood of the city. We also need to streamline the permitting process as it is currently mired in bureaucracy. We also need to invest in BIPOC owned developers. With regards to public safety it is absolutely critical that we expand our Health One unit to be city wide 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
FARRELL: Seattle Fire’s Health One program, the Mobile Crisis Team, and the civilian Community Service Officer program within SPD are all programs that need to be dramatically scaled up to serve as truly viable alternatives to having armed officers respond to people in crisis.
GONZALEZ: 1) More funding for property acquisitions and affordable housing development. 2) Increased crisis response units like HealthOne and the Mobile Crisis Response Team 3) Alternative community safety programs like Community Service Officers I have advanced new progressive revenue mechanisms in the past and will continue to do so to reverse our regressive tax system and make sure the wealthiest individuals and corporations are paying their fair share.
HOUSTON: Some of the specifically existing programs I will increase funding include: 1) the Equitable Development Initiative, 2) Community-Led Safety Contracts, 3) the Public Safety Coordinator Program, and 4) the Home Ownership Program. The funds for these items will come from both my proposed Just Transition Tax—a 1% income tax focused on affordable housing and green apprenticeships—and from defunding SPD and reinvesting those funds into gun-free responses to crises, including mental health crises.
HARRELL: I strongly agree – along with economic recovery, these are the immediate priorities facing our city and we must act urgently to strengthen and improve existing programs. On homelessness, we must continue to expand supportive housing solutions, which are the key to getting people back on their feet. This includes specific mental and behavioral health services offered on-site, as well as connecting others in need throughout our city to critical health resources. I believe the City left money on the table that could be put to use right now to address this crisis, and as Mayor I will dedicate additional federal recovery resources and state funds for critical housing and services. With regard to public safety, I have spoken clearly about the need for culture change and reform – and adapting response to meet the needs of the community. I do not support the “defund the police” narrative, and believe we will need to continue to invest in de-escalation and other means of training that eliminate bias, build trust, and improve effectiveness. We should also invest in multidisciplinary teams, like Health One, which don’t include police and have the specialized skills and focuses to better approach certain kinds of emergencies or crises. Overall, we need to thoroughly review our current spending and create a budget that matches our values. My vision also includes an expansion of participatory budgeting through a new practice of giving each council district $10 million to spend on local and community projects. Though we have moved from at-large elections to defined districts, we’ve yet to reach their potential – ensuring representatives are truly hyper-locally responsive to their constituents and communities.
LANGLIE: City leadership should be collecting data and testing the effectiveness of programs in order to have objective measurements as to which programs work and which do not. Under my administration, the programs that do work would have their funding increased by cutting the funding of programs that do not. This becomes especially clear in dealing with the homelessness issue. I have a specific plan that will include metrics to assure we are being successful rather than continuing to fund things that are not working. I consider that the goal for all of our programs and teams so that we can actually make progress and fund success.
RANDALL: For homelessness support: I will increase funding more transitional support for our neighbors in makeshift tents and RVs. I will immediately empower teams of nurses, substance abuse specialists, job development specialists, and specially trained police officers to enter existing tent cities to provide substance abuse, job readiness, and other transitional services. To increase the funding, I will evaluate the City’s current contracting process with Human Services Providers to determine improvements in both accountability of services delivered and pay of service providers. I predict there will be areas where funding can be reallocated to fund this priority. For mental health services: I will increase funding to expand the capacity of community-based organizations to hire and retain staff members to increase services to the communities they serve. This will allow the City to build trust with our various communities and effectively support their specific needs. Incentives can include internship programs for local youth interested in mental health and addiction services. To increase the funding, I will partner with our neighboring cities to increase per-capita spending throughout the area. This will improve mental health and addiction services across the region and reduce the service burden on Seattle. For public safety: I will increase funding to provide police officers with the proper support when responding to calls to help avoid injuries and fatalities. I will increase the funding for this priority by bring the police budget and reallocating funding within the police department to provide opportunities for experts in mental health, drug counseling, de-escalation techniques and crime prevention to accompany police officers on calls where special assistance is needed. For affordable housing: I will increase funding for our houseless neighbors beyond our Seattle Housing Levy dollars. I will increase the funding for this priority by focusing the resources from the Federal Housing Urban Development Agency to build, acquire, and sustain housing for the homeless. Federal fund utilization will free up Seattle Housing Levy dollars so those dollars can be used to build affordable housing for those living well below the poverty level.
SIXKILLER: We need to be more intentional about what it is we are trying to solve rather than simply pointing the finger generally at homelessness. Doing so does not reflect the complexity of the mental health, addiction, crime, and harm we are seeing among the city’s homeless population nor does it provide clarity for the strategies we need to invest in to address the harm the rest of us are increasingly experiencing. Despite an eviction moratorium since early 2020 and a record amount of spending by both the City and King County, the region’s homelessness response continues to fail to meet our expectations. That is because over the past two years we have been funding essentially the same disjointed approach we have been investing in for the past twenty years — one that is data poor, lacks performance metrics and accountability, and is too slow to adopt new strategies and afraid to cut loose those that are not working. Rather than a provider-driven approach, I will be funding a coordinated and strategic approach that includes and leverages the unique expertise of providers but is centered on outcomes we all view as successful and worthy of continued taxpayer investment. As Mayor I also will increase funding for the Seattle Fire Department’s Health One program to provide more coverage for Capitol Hill/First Hill while also working to address the broken crisis response system that is neither designed nor funded to address the acute needs of our city. We must also invest in creating safe spaces and programs to receive individuals who are in crisis that include new respite centers and inpatient treatment options.
Question 2) Do you support the charter amendment proposed by Compassion Seattle, what is your understanding of why supporters are pursuing the campaign, and what is the best way to achieve and pay for their goals?
ECHOHAWK: No. While I know there are many well intentioned people who I’ve worked with and respect working on this charter amendment, it falls short of what this City needs. It does not scale adequately to the 5,000 people who need to be brought inside, it doesn’t have an adequate funding mechanism, and it’s language does not adequately prevent sweeps. I want to be clear: I will never sweep. Sweeping is cruel, inhumane, and does nothing to solve the underlying problems. It also did not adequately integrate the Lived Experience Coalition into the development process. It’s because of the feedback from the Lived Experience Coalition that I withdrew any support of Compassion Seattle. And the fact is, my plan is better. I’ve already mentioned my 22-point plan to bring everyone indoors within the 14 months after the election. It won’t be easy, but I know I can do it.
FARRELL: I do support the Compassion Seattle amendment, because I believe it creates consensus around the policy proposals we know are necessary to solve this crisis and focuses the conversation on how to adequately fund those solutions. In my analysis of the charter amendment’s text, I do not believe it mandates sweeps and my administration would not engage in them. I was in the state legislature when McCleary constrained our budget, and it’s absolutely unacceptable to force essential services like parks and libraries to compete with the funding we need to solve the homelessness crisis. I’d leverage the popularity of those programs to both work with the City Council to make sure that all city services have the funding they need and also go to the people and get their support at the ballot box for additional progressive revenue that ensures the wealthiest pay their fair share.
GONZALEZ: I oppose Charter Amendment 29 because it is an unfunded mandate that does not identify a sustainable progressive revenue source. I oppose cuts to essential city services and support progressive revenue measures to build more housing.
HOUSTON: NO, it is an unfunded mandate and legalizes sweeps. Supporters of the charter amendment are at a loss after years of seeing homeless people stuck outside and view the amendment—whether informed or not—as a chance to do something different and as a hope for change (even though the fine print simply emboldens the status quo of violence against visible poverty).
HARRELL: In Compassion Seattle, I’m pleased to see broad agreement between leading human service providers, advocates for the unsheltered, and local business leaders on a path forward. I will pursue a similar approach – bringing all stakeholders to agree on one plan: massive investment in emergency housing, individualized services, and helping people out of tents and into housing as units come online – with progressive revenue to fund these investments. Homelessness is the major challenge of the day, and regardless of whether Compassion Seattle passes, I know we must urgently invest in thousands of new units of supportive housing and shelter. Hotels, tiny homes, and other stable suitable housing options are the best way to ensure unhoused neighbors actually get the care and support they need to thrive. I am calling for the majority of funds from the second round of American Rescue Plan Act distributions next year – at least $70 million – to go toward homelessness services and support. Those additional dollars – in contrast to the approach taken by the current council – would make an immediate impact when coupled with my new approach and plan. I’ve also called for improved regional solutions, philanthropic and community support, and, most importantly, a clearly defined and accessible plan, available to all, so we can unite our city and rebuild trust that the City of Seattle is headed in the right direction on this issue.
LANGLIE: I do not support Compassion Seattle. I understand and respect the concern of those that do support it and they be assured that many of those plans are included in my plan to address homelessness. I do not believe in that there is an “easy” button on this or that it is good governance to force the public to deal with an emergency level issue that has gone unresolved by those in leadership. City government is about providing services to our residents which includes our homeless population and solving what is surely the greatest crisis of their lifetime. As mentioned in the answer on programs and teams, instead of continuing to throw money at the problem without doing any research to test if our solutions are working, we need to collect quantitative data on which programs the city is paying for work and don’t work. We should cut the funding for the programs that do not work in order to increase funding for programs that are proven to work and resolve this emergency with the urgency it has deserved for a long time.
RANDALL: The charter amendment proposal is an intriguing approach that seeks to increase and mandate the amount of funding the city must invest to address homelessness. My understanding is that supporters believe the city does not invest enough funding to support our houseless neighbors. I think that is a shame a group of concerned citizens had to take this step the force our local government to be more attentive to this issue. I welcome the opportunity for the voters to weigh in on this issue and whether the amendment passes or not it will not impact my plan to address homelessness through my “Dignity Project”. To end City Hall’s neglect of those experiencing homelessness who are sheltering in makeshift tents and RVs on our streets, in public parks and wooded areas; I am proposing a unique plan that I call “The Dignity Project”. This plan is based on the successful model “Hillsborough Hope” Tampa, Florida. All elements of this project will bring about dignity, stability, and opportunity for those who are displaced, as we continue our efforts to develop housing options. With this approach, the city will be able to clean the streets, dispose of trash and debris, remove graffiti, and enforce our local ordinances prohibiting camping on the streets in tents and RV’s. This initiative will start with establishing “Dignity Communities” using surplus city property and leasing private property to create safe places for temporary shelter with service providers on site, amenities to meet basic human needs, support teams and job placement for sustainable earned income. These communities will be places of compassion and support but will have expectations of those being cared for to ensure that needs are met and progress towards recovery is being made.
SIXKILLER: The proposed charter amendment demonstrates that voters are desperate for progress and do not trust their elected leaders to solve problems. I agree that we need to boldly address homelessness. The Compassion Seattle Charter Amendment reflects a desire by a cross-section of Seattle that is laser focused on outcomes. Creating additional temporary shelter units and permanent housing options, each with the wraparound services folks need, is an essential element of my proposal to addressing the homelessness crisis on our streets and in our parks. The charter amendment takes a similar approach but I have proposed a $1 billion property tax levy to build 3,000 new permanent places for folks to call home. This generational investment will more than triple the number of permanent supportive housing units coming online each year, and be in addition to units already funded by the current housing levy and other units being funded by the state and county. Every dollar we spend on shelter is a dollar we are not spending on permanent housing. My approach — and the one outlined in the charter amendment — is to address both ends of the street-to-housing pipeline by ensuring there are safe spaces for folks living outside to come into and permanent places for folks in our shelter system to transition to so we create throughput and improve overall system performance.
Question 3) Last month CHS reported on plans to permanently shut down Route 47 serving one of the densest areas of the city after the route was not included in the recently renewed Transportation Benefit District. How should Seattle City Hall push to revive Route 47 and what can the city do in 2022 to quickly grow service in Central Seattle?
ECHOHAWK: We must lead with a mobility justice lens. Mobility justice means our transportation system supports resilient, accessible public transit. Starting with those who need it most, this lens creates good jobs, advances our climate and safety goals, and connects people with options that allow them to thrive. I will build our transportation system back better by investing in a strong and connected multimodal system that is safe and accessible so no one will be stranded without a way to get around. For BIPOC communities we MUST focus on accessibility. I will prioritize equitable access to opportunities for all Seattleites by using a participatory process and equity assessment to determine where needs are greatest. We need to build a robust regional public transit network and ensure our public transit services operate as a regional network, and are more frequent, reliable, and affordable, prioritizing investments where need is greatest. I will work with King County and transit agencies to find regional solutions and funding for public transit. I will also work with county officials to put a county-wide measure on the ballot to expand bus service. Connectivity means also partnering with Seattle employers and organizations to incentivize more transit options, so services are affordable and available to all neighborhoods. Different agencies have similar goals as well as obstacles that can be solved by working together. Most importantly, connectivity helps keep everyone accountable to deliver the promises we make to our customers.
FARRELL: Seattle’s next mayor should be a fierce advocate for transit service with every regional, state, and federal partner, and that’s what I’ve done my entire career. I’d personally lobby the King County Council to revive Route 47 as part of a push to expand transit service across the city while we work with King County Metro to make all public transit fare-free.
GONZALEZ: Operated by KC Metro, I’ll advocate for Route 47 or effective alternatives to continue service downtown neighborhoods. Whether it’s pushing Metro to prioritize these routes or through our direct purchase of service hours with STBD funds, we need to make sure our transit system is effectively moving people through our center city which acts as a hub for the whole city and region.
HOUSTON: This is specifically why I plan on putting buses back on the ballot in 2022. We need to restore service to pre-COVID-19 levels across Seattle, and that includes restoring the 47.
HARRELL: As we recover from this pandemic, we have to get transit back on track – crucial for meeting our climate goals and making our city more accessible – by increasing frequency of service, broadening route options, and working to better connect different methods of transportation to each other and to the communities they serve. Route 47 is a perfect example of the kind of service we need to restore. It’s common sense that one of our densest neighborhoods should have a direct and reliable connection to our city’s major business district and jobs hub. I’ll work to pursue additional funding for transit – not just at the city level, but through advocacy at the county, state, and federal levels. The state especially must dedicate more resources to transit and I will ensure Seattle is advocating for that need. We deserve a comprehensive transportation system connecting all parts of our city, through a robust bus network and an expedited ST3, and Seattle cannot do all that on its own.
LANGLIE: This is a perfect example of the disorder our city leadership has gotten us into. Basic services such as public transportation have been cut in order to pay for unnecessary and/or unproven new programs. My administration would have a focus on getting back to the basics such as public transit. If bus lines like route 47 show the kind of ridership data and need to be important and necessary means of transportation to restore our city, we need to restore it.
RANDALL: As Mayor I will make this route a priority outside of the renewed transportation benefit district decision and partner with King County Metro to fund and restore the route. To quickly grow the service in 2022 I will upgrade our traffic movement, signal, and crosswalk technology to improve safety for people to get to the bust stop. I will also offer subsidized fares for low-income riders and incentives for car owners to drive less and use mass transit.
SIXKILLER: Expanding access to frequent and reliable transit service is essential to supporting thriving, walkable neighborhoods, addressing the climate crisis, and reducing traffic congestion. As the chief operating officer of King County overseeing Metro Transit, I worked to increase service to underserved communities and make process improvements to how the agency determines its routes. The pandemic had a significant impact on the availability of tax revenues to maintain existing service levels across the city. As Mayor I will be working closely with federal, state, and other partners to secure funding so we can add back service that was curtailed as a result of the pandemic and reexamine those factors that contributed to low ridership or a decision to discontinue service. With new light rail extensions opening every year for the next four years and the Madison RapidRide line now funded and moving toward construction, now is the time for the City to be investing in transit and feeder lines to optimize the overall transit system.
Question 4) Given safety concerns of SPD and many in community asking for the facility to be removed, how would you support closure of the East Precinct at 12th Ave and Pine street? If you would not support, what changes would you support to improve the situation for police and for the neighborhood?
ECHOHAWK: I believe we must recenter neighborhoods and communities in our public safety response. I plan on rerouting significant funds from our over bloated police budget and returning them to community oriented groups and organizations. I believe the East Precinct should become a community space, a centralized urban stabilization and restoration center. This would be a one stop shop of sorts for community to go to when they’re experiencing a crisis. I would cultivate relationships with King County and community partners to invest in this project. I’m proposing to develop a Crisis Response Team to respond to the numerous calls the City receives that do not need armed officers, such as mental health emergencies. That way, these centers can integrate mobile response on one end with sustained recovery on the other. Oftentimes, recipients of the Crisis Response Team need long-term care after being initially treated at the scene of the call by the Crisis Response Team, so addressing non-violent crimes through restorative justice, addiction recovery, and on-site mental health programming in this center would be critical. Doing this not only addresses inequities by meeting residents’ needs prior to crises taking place, but ensures that SPD has the resources available to support crime victims in immediate need. Lake City neighbors, in partnership with three service provider organizations, have proposed to launch a pilot Community Safety Hub, which is very similar to this idea. I am willing to go even further and commit to full funding.
FARRELL: No one in our community should feel unsafe going about their daily lives, and SPD’s use of force against Capitol Hill residents during the protest movement last summer was wholly unacceptable. At the same time, we saw that the inability for emergency services to get to victims of gun violence within CHOP created an unsafe environment for people trying to peacefully protest. My top priority in selecting a new police chief is picking someone who views themselves as a committed partner in transforming public safety to regain the trust of our community, and would work with that person to engage Capitol Hill residents to find a solution that ensures continued access to emergency services that’s acceptable to the community.
GONZALEZ: I strongly believe in working with the community to make these determinations. I believe that we should have a thorough community review process to guide the next Mayor in making this decision in a manner that is community driven.
HOUSTON: As part of my organizing and reporting during last summer’s protests, I learned two things: 1) The only reason the East Precinct is located where it is, is because the Black and LGBTQ+ communities kept fighting against the location of the precinct in the Central Area until the queer community let up after years of back-and-forth; 2) The East Precinct is within walking distance of the West Precinct. I would support closure of the East Precinct and permit relocation toward the northeast, closer to the Montlake Bridge and out of Capitol Hill.
HARRELL: One thing we won’t do with the East Precinct is leave up unnecessary and uncalled for barricades and fences for months on end, which in addition to being an eyesore and symbol of City Hall’s failure during CHOP, also cost the city thousands of dollars. We need an effective public safety system that meets community needs with haste and without bias. As we work to significantly reduce rising emergency response times, we will review the siting of our police precincts and other infrastructure, and we will analyze all police and emergency responses to determine whether police were needed or effective, and then thoughtfully develop a model and system for well-calibrated and well-deployed emergency response teams, including those that don’t include police. Ultimately, regardless of where command precincts are located, we need to build community trust between law enforcement and the communities and neighborhoods they serve. That starts by not only changing the tactics, but also the culture of SPD, as well as ensuring officers are part of the communities that they seek to protect.
LANGLIE: I do not support the closure of the East Precinct. We should provide police with more training and recruit seasoned officers while adopting the #8CantWait policies to require officers to abide by certain standards for use of force. The city should integrate more non-police resources into public safety such as more social workers to respond to mental health crises. I want to increase dialogue between city leadership, the police, and members of our community to understand the needs of all groups. Everyone living in Seattle deserves to be safe. In order to be safe, we must talk with and understand each other, and diffuse the toxicity that has been created amongst leadership and our police force which remains an important part of our community.
RANDALL: I do not support closing of the East Precinct. Having the precinct in the area with officers keep response time low on incident calls. In addition, this precinct has historical value in that the first black City Councilmember, Sam Smith, was responsible for getting the facility in the CD. It should stay. The most important responsibility I will have as Mayor is to keep the public safe and protected. To do this I must rely on our public safety service delivery system which consists of the Police Department, Fire Department, First Responders and Human Services Providers. For this system to function properly each agency must be adequately funded and staffed. These agencies must be mutually supported and work together as a team. I will keep my commitment to keep Seattle safe and protected by maintaining a fully funded public safety service delivery system. Based on the recent demands for social justice in our country, it is especially important that our Police Department is motivated to improve. To improve the situation for police and the neighborhood around the East Precinct, I will: • Develop and implement a “Relationship-Based Policing Program” for the department to create community trust and partnership. I, along with the Police Chief and the Commanders, will be more interactive with our residents through regular “Town Hall Meetings.” The goal of these meetings is to work with residents to develop a “Community Policing Philosophy” based on organizational strategies, crime prevention techniques and public safety programs that have been implemented around the country. • Implement checks and balances to both address biased policing by some individual officers and ensure that all public safety personnel are living up to their pledge to protect and serve. • Work with the Police Chief, Commanders and the Seattle Police Officers Guild, to develop and implement a program that addresses the need for “Culture Change” within the police department which will be the “Value Standard” by which every police officer must adhere to while serving the public. • Implement a comprehensive program for progressive discipline for removing officers that are detrimental to public safety before they cause community crises.
SIXKILLER: I do not support closing or moving the East Precinct. Across the city shots fired are up 35 percent (17 percent of those associated with homeless encampments) and so far this year there have been 32 firearm crimes (up from 10 just last year, also associated with encampments). Arson has increased by an astounding 182 percent. Robberies are up 15 percent, assaults up 18 percent, and car thefts 13 percent. And these figures do not include the low-level crimes fatigued Seattleites do not bother to report anymore. The fact is over this past year, Seattle has become less safe, for everyone. We need to hire more police officers to replace the 300 that departed as a result of the City Council’s budget cuts last fall. Not only will this help address the unacceptable increase in 911 response times that has occured as a result of these departures, but it is an opportunity to refocus our recruitment and retention efforts on those officers that reflect our values. We need to steer away from relying on military experience as a qualifier for being a police officer, and create new pathways to hire police officers from the communities that they serve, which is why I have proposed developing a new AA program in partnership with the Seattle Colleges — similar to the one that exists with the Seattle Fire Department — to create a feeder program for local, homegrown talent for policing. We also need to continue to advance alternatives to an armed police response, beginning with fixing our broken crisis response system, hiring more unarmed community service officers, and investing in community organizations so they can scale programing and real-time alternatives to disrupting street-level crime and violence prevention.
ECHOHAWK: I believe that we need an abundant supply of housing at all price points, including affordable housing, if we are going to be address our housing crisis. We know that our current lack of housing is intrinsically tied with homelessness. It is vital that we upzone neighborhoods with care. Particularly in traditionally BIPOC majority neighborhoods. It’s important that upzoning be the solution to the displacement of BIPOC residents from Seattle, not the cause. I believe we need to be doing a better job of that in Capitol Hill and the Central District. I want to create avenues for previous residents of these neighborhoods to return. That’s why I’m a staunch supporter of the the Community Preference policy from the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. I believe in a diverse, vibrant Seattle where all residents can afford to live.
FARRELL: Yes, policies that promote density and more affordable housing help all our communities, but we need affordable housing in every neighborhood — not just our existing urban villages. Additionally, we need to strengthen anti-displacement protections and accountability mechanisms to ensure affordable housing is actually built with such programs, so that the economic development that accompanies more dense housing doesn’t push out longtime residents of Capitol Hill and the Central District.
GONZALEZ: I support greater density and believe that our exclusionary zoning status quo has gone on far too long and must be rectified to open up our neighborhoods for more neighbors, more housing choices that include affordable housing and home ownership, and more opportunities for small businesses or amenities like childcare. I served as co-chair of the Select Committee on Mandatory Housing Affordability where I worked to pass the legislation but also directed resources towards anti-displacement and placemaking strategies for neighborhoods that are historically home to communities of color. I believe that, while MHA did not go far enough nor was it a truly citywide effort, it has helped our City become denser and yielded funding and units for affordable housing. At the end of 2020, $96.1 million dollars of MHA payments were received by the city and another $50.7 million anticipated with currently vested projects. The Office of Housing has been able to deploy $84.7M of these funds to low-income housing units; in the Capitol Hill/Central District area, $4.11M MHA payments have been made to the City while the Office of Housing has made nearly 4x the payments receive to invest $16.18M in affordable housing units for rental and ownership in the area. It is essential our efforts for greater, truly citywide upzoning is tied to anti-displacement investments and placemaking efforts and paired with transit planning if we are to meet our climate resiliency goals as well as be a City that can create the housing stock we need as the fastest growing city in the country. Without action on denser zoning, our housing and climate crisis will only get worse and further exacerbate wealth disparities; every worker in this City, whether they are a tech worker or a hospitality worker, should be able to afford to live in Seattle and in a neighborhood with the amenities and transit they need.
HOUSTON: Yes! As an organizer with Share The Cities pushing for the MHA upzones in 2019, we believed that the benefit would pay off, and the latest report proves that correct. The MHA payments developers made in 2020 funded 698 new units—110 more than the housing levy. That said, Seattle’s Urban Village Strategy—not to be conflated with MHA itself—explicitly incentivizes displacement and gentrification for places like Capitol Hill and the Central District when we build new housing because they are the few areas around the city where you can build multifamily housing. This strategy—a direct continuation of past redlining—puts the burden of the entire city’s growth disproportionately on our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ neighborhoods. That’s why I will lift the apartment ban citywide, update the MHA to require all new development pay into the affordable housing trust fund, and create a developer displacement mitigation fee as an anti-displacement strategy.
HARRELL: MHA and associated upzones have been critical for the development of thousands of new units of housing and affordable housing across our city and are necessary tools in our efforts to bring down rising rents and meet development goals. As someone who grew up in the redlined Central District, we have certainly seen displacement occur at an alarming rate, but without this action, many at-risk communities would have faced even steeper skyrocketing rents. We know there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to the housing affordability crisis, and that we must build more housing. As Mayor, I’ll work to make sure all neighborhoods take on their fair share of affordable housing, encourage density and different kinds of housing, continue to increase public efforts to invest in affordable housing, and mandate private developers be part of the solution. We need to adopt creative and targeted solutions to prevent further displacement, working with communities and the Office of Housing to explore programs for increasing equity in housing and homeownership, including community land trusts, affirmative marketing, and exploring innovative anti-displacement policies like those in other cities. These will be guiding principles of my administration as we address the housing crisis and work to create a city that anyone can afford to live in.
LANGLIE: I believe that Mandatory Housing Affordability upzones have had mixed effects on neighborhoods. I believe that growing Seattle in an equitable way so that everyone has a place to live is important to having a vibrant and diverse city. However, this has likely also led to an increase in price of the new non-MHA housing units. Much of the current housing demand in Seattle is in the form of single-family homes and that we have overbuilt our apartments. We need to reimagine our approach to building new housing so that Seattle remains a place that all people can afford to live. We are a community that has reinvented a lot of things over the years, and housing is ready for that effort. Not everyone needs or wants a single-family home, and we should be envisioning new types where people do want to live that are procured affordably so that there is wider availability.
RANDALL: The Mandatory Housing Affordability upzones have helped Capitol Hill and the Central District increase affordable housing units within the neighborhoods while market forces drive towards more expensive units. Having affordable units increases diversity of our neighborhoods, but unfortunately, many individuals and families have already been displaced out of their communities due to rising housing costs. I will work with the City Council to revisit the MHA to create more flexibility within the Single-family zones, such as reducing the minimum lot size at block ends, establishing more opportunities for Land Trust models, and creating partnerships between landowners and levy funds to enable property owners to build wealth and limit displacement.
SIXKILLER: The good news about MHA is that it is outpacing the current Housing Levy in generating revenue, the bad news is it’s not having the on-site performance and creating affordable housing in the same community where MHA revenues are being generated. Seattle needs more housing choices, including Missing Middle Housing, but it is also true that rapid development over the past decade has accelerated displacement and gentrification, particularly in our historically BIPOC neighborhoods. Our efforts need to first be focused on preserving our current housing stock, doing more to support BIPOC families at risk of displacement, and fine tuning existing programs, like MHA, so they are getting the housing production and affordability we want. Our policies should support the ability for families to hold onto their homes and build intergenerational wealth, age in place, or simply earn supplemental income that enables them to remain in Seattle. I will pursue zoning changes where it makes sense but with the understanding that we must also be careful not to make currently affordable neighborhoods suddenly unaffordable.
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