Capitol Hill renters might be getting slightly better deal in 2017 — but new commission is about more than rents

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.25 PM Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.31 PMFriday morning, the Seattle City Council is taking its first steps toward forming a first of its kind commission to represent renters at City Hall. Formation of the Seattle Renters’ Commission comes as rents for the first time in ages appear to possibly be softening on Capitol Hill — but immediately lower rents aren’t necessarily the goal. The city is going to need political help widening the new apartment pipeline to keep new construction in motion and new apartments coming into the Seattle market.

“Rising rents are pushing residents out of the city, and that’s unacceptable,” Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien representing Northwest Seattle’s District 6 said. “Low-income renters are nearly twice as likely as homeowners to be displaced by gentrification. I believe that the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring much needed perspective to our policy work about how we can grow equitably and inclusively.”

O’Brien is talking about lots of things — Source of Income Discrimination and Move In Fees legislation, enforcement of existing laws like the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, and the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance — but he is also, of course talking about HALA. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Renter Initiative, Entre Hermanos holding ‘housing justice’ movie night

Last summer, CHS reported on progress in easing the construction of backyard rentals to help combat Seattle’s affordability crisis. The progress has since ground to a halt. Wednesday, the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative and Latino LGBTQ nonprofit Entre Hermanos are teaming up for a movie night and discussion at 12th Ave’s Northwest Film Forum to sort out how the groups “can take action on backyard cottages and other housing justice campaigns” —

Housing Justice Movie Night-Quinceañera

This event was created in response to the recent decision by the Seattle hearing examiner to indefinitely delay an ordinance that would make it easier for homeowners to build backyard cottages (legally called Detached Accessory Dwelling Units or DADUs) like the home the main characters share in the movie. The hearing examiner decision came after a legal challenge by the Queen Anne Community Council, a neighborhood group that hired attorneys in order to delay these low cost housing options from coming to their neighborhood.

You can register for a “ticket” to the event here. The screening is free but organizers are asking for a $3 donation to help cover costs.

CHS wrote here last month on the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative’s goals for 2017.

Capitol Hill Renters Initiative starts 2017 with call for tenant leaders

759960-250Wednesday night on Capitol Hill includes two different tenant rights meetings. Maybe 2017 really is the year of the renter.

To start the new year, CHS told you about a new series of free bootcamps to hep educate tenants across Seattle. The first Be:Seattle Tenant Rights Bootcamp is Wednesday night from 6:30 to 8:00 PM at Summit Ave’s Top Pot.

Wednesday also brings the monthly gathering of a longer-term effort to help politically — and tactically — organize tenants on Capitol Hill. Alex Brennan of Capitol Hill Housing’s EcoDistrict effort tells CHS the nonprofit is looking forward to the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative growing more and more independent in 2017 starting with its first meeting of the new year from 6 to 7 PM at 12th Ave Arts.

“The big thing is we’re moving towards renters taking on more leadership and more responsibility from Capitol Hill Housing staff,” Brennan said. Continue reading

Seattle Times: ‘Seattle needs a renters’ commission to include more voices in policymaking’

Of the many ideas that emerged during September’s Capitol Hill Renter Summit, the call for a louder, more permanent voice for the city’s tenants came through most clearly. Recently, Capitol Hill Housing’s Joe Sisolak and the Capitol Hill Community Council’s Zachary DeWolf spilled some ink in the Seattle Times in an essay calling for the creation of a Seattle renters’ commission. We’ve shared the piece, below. To get involved, check out for upcoming meetings and events.

Seattle needs a renters’ commission to include more voices in policymaking
By Zachary DeWolf and Joel Sisolak

WHEN Seattle Mayor Ed Murray cut formal ties with the neighborhood district-council system in July, he pointed to the fact that they did not reflect the full diversity of their neighborhoods. District council officers and attendees, the mayor said, tended to be 40 years or older, white, with the vast majority owning their homes, as opposed to renting.

If the mayor wants more diverse voices at the table, there is one idea that is generating support: Form a citywide “renters’ commission.” Continue reading

A Capitol Hill renter? Tell Sawant, Murray what you need

renter-power-tshirtSomewhere between Capitol Hill’s activist circles and neighborhood groups is a “silent majority” of renters seeking a way to get involved in Seattle’s most pressing policy debates. Capitol Hill EcoDistrict wants you.

On Saturday, the EcoDistrict — an outgrowth of the nonprofit Capitol Hill Housing — is sponsoring its first ever Capitol Hill Renter Summit at the Miller Community Center.

“We view the Summit as the start of a much larger movement,” said CHH planner Alex Brennan. “We’ve talked a lot these past few months about how renters can have more power in decision-making in our neighborhood and city.” Continue reading

What’s in Seattle ‘Renting Crisis’ report

Progressive Seattle City Council members unveiled a pair of bills Thursday they say will help protect average residents looking for housing in Seattle’s cutthroat rental market. District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is proposing new legislation to limit move-in costs and “ease moving barriers” for Seattle renters. A measure from District 1 rep Lisa Herbold seeks to prevent landlords from turning down prospective tenants due to their source of income.

To put a finer point on the need for their proposals, the council members were joined by members of Washington Community Action Network, an advocacy organization working on housing justice, who released a ‘Renting Crisis’ report on the challenges faced by renters in Seattle.

Of the 303 renters surveyed, 95% rated housing as unaffordable, more than 70% said poor housing conditions were negatively impacting their health, and the report indicated that minority and LGBTQ tenants were more likely to experience problems with the conditions of their rental units and resulting health problems. Continue reading

Reminder: Capitol Hill Renter Initiative monthly meeting

(Image: Carlos Ruiz courtesy of Capitol Hill Housing)

(Image: Carlos Ruiz courtesy of Capitol Hill Housing)

Remember how we told you about how renters, Capitol Hill’s silent majority, are getting their political act together?

Renters: Capitol Hill’s silent majority is organizing

Here’s the next chance for you to get involved:

Capitol Hill Renter Initiative – July Meeting

Renters: Capitol Hill’s silent majority is organizing

100 “building ambassadors” needed for Capitol Hill renter summit in September

Since renters on Capitol Hill are transient and apathetic to city affairs, their concerns are less worthy of consideration when crafting public policy — or so the theory goes.

The message is one that Capitol Hill EcoDistrict director Joel Sisolak says is internalized by many renters, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy of disengagement. A new organizing effort by the neighborhood sustainability organization is trying to change that.

Capitol Hill Renter Initiative seeks 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 way into local politics.

“We’re really interested in getting renters into the public process,” Sisolak said. “That includes neighborhood discussions around land use and affordability” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing’s annual forum: 5 projects to ‘gearshift’ the Hill

Imagine the CHS comments section come to life. You know… a deep, well-informed conversation about the most important issues and opportunities facing Capitol Hill and the people of Central Seattle. With fewer trolls and people complaining about my tiptoes typos.

Capitol Hill Housing’s annual community forum is Thursday night, the location is Hill-convenient at E Pike’s Summit Event Space, the tickets are free and still available. The theme? Gearshift:

When people talk about “shifting gears” they often mean abruptly changing direction or the topic of conversation. This idiom is confusing. On a bicycle, shifting gears has little to do with changing direction. Rather, shifting gears on a bike is about maintaining an optimal effort for maximum efficiency. It’s about making on-the-fly adjustments to keep moving over uneven terrain without getting exhausted. Shifting gears is more appropriately a metaphor for resilience.

Some important and smart people will be there:

On May 26th, five professional urban planners and passionate community organizers will introduce these ambitious projects in a rapid-fire series of Pecha Kucha-style presentations followed by an opportunity for each guest to participate in a facilitated discussion about one of the five projects. Presenters include Sierra Hansen of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Scott Bonjukian of Lid I-5, Alex Brennan from Capitol Hill Housing, Zachary Pullin of the Capitol Hill Community Council and Tonya Lockyer of Velocity Dance Center.  Civic leaders (City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien are confirmed) will be there to listen and respond to your comments.

This year’s forum will be a little different with multiple presentations on a set of hot topics undoubtedly culled from recent CHS archives:

The evening will feature five projects with the potential to increase the resilience of the neighborhood. The five projects:

The annual forum — CHH says this is the 9th edition — has been out in front on a variety of important initiatives and issues around the area while foreshadowing big projects to come from the city and the nonprofit developer. In 2015, the forum discussed gentrification and development in the Central District. In the year since, we’ve followed as massive projects have taken shape, more are coming, and the challenges of change have taken new forms in the community that CHH is slated to become an important new part of.

Capitol Hill Housing’s work around Capitol Hill, meanwhile, continues as the nonprofit developer of affordable housing enters its 40th year. It has been selected to be part of the Capitol Hill Station development to operate an 86-unit affordable apartment building at the site. As part of its mission to build “vibrant, engaged communities,” the 40-year-old community development corporation has frequently found itself outside the traditional role of housing developer. Through the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, CHH organized the pedestrian zone pilot project and will launch a transit pass program for tenants, and a shared parking pilot.

Gearshift: Capitol Hill Housing’s Community Forum 2016 is Thursday, May 26 starting at 5:00 PM at The Summit, 420 E Pike. Free tickets are available here.

Capitol Hill Community Council | A focus on empowering renters

Capitol Hill Community Council February: Know Your Rights, Grow Your Rights Thursday, February 18th, 6:30 PM 12th Avenue Arts -- 1620 12th Ave

Capitol Hill Community Council February: Know Your Rights, Grow Your Rights
Thursday, February 18th, 6:00 PM
12th Avenue Arts — 1620 12th Ave

The Capitol Hill Community Council continues elevating the issues most meaningful to our neighborhood. This month’s meeting, on Thursday, February 18 (6:00pm at 12th Ave Arts) focuses on empowering renters.

Advocates for tenants will provide helpful information about the rights of renters and the importance of being an informed renter. And guests from the City of Seattle will share opportunities to expand renters’ rights through HALA and the Housing Levy.

This focus speaks to a larger commitment that we’ve made to our community and ourselves: community development that affirms we are all neighbors who deserve the ability to thrive.

Lately, we’ve followed along with the discourse from nearby neighborhoods that continue to fiercely oppose change, that continue to reject the most vulnerable. We’re hoping that this new commitment and a diversity of meeting format helps us to be in community with our neighbors, more wholly. Continue reading