Affordability and Housing Crisis
My working neighbors are struggling with the rapidly increasing cost of living, driven in part by regressive taxes, and it's difficult for my employees to find apartments with affordable rents despite good salaries and benefits. Let’s face it: Seattle is a growing city and the City Council must steer that growth wisely to maintain affordability, while reducing our carbon footprint. We can do this by adding density to our urban centers and villages as well as along transit lines to make our transportation more efficient. We can embrace growth without losing our quality of life if we also commit to maintaining our public assets such as parks, community centers, libraries and green spaces.
Here's my plan:
- We must build more housing, period! There is no one-size-fits all solution and we can’t subsidize our way out of this crisis, because there are not enough tax dollars to dedicate to affordable housing. We must increase our stock of family-sized units to accommodate the increasing numbers of families in urban centers and villages, as well as build and allow for more market-rate units and backyard cottages, and other small-scale multifamily projects along frequent transit where appropriate.
- Affordable, walkable housing. Seattle will benefit from both transit-oriented development (TOD) to reduce emissions and manage growth, and leveraging an increased housing supply to generate revenue for affordable housing. We need affordable housing in Seattle immediately, and we can’t afford to delay. We also must ensure our growth strategy is smart and focused on urban clusters with proximity to public transit and jobs.
- I support the extension of the Multifamily Tax Exemption for existing buildings, which would provide property tax credit for owners of residential units as long as they are kept at affordable rates for 20 years. 6,000 new affordable units will come on-line immediately with the passage of this legislation in Olympia. I will make it a priority to work with our State delegation to get this bill passed in 2018.
- I will work to promote the Senior Property Tax Credit program which provides property tax relief for seniors earning less than $40,000 a year. Surprisingly, only about 20% of the eligible seniors in Seattle participate in this program, largely for two reasons: they do not know about it, and it is fairly onerous to apply for the program. One of the first things I would do is put a plan in place to promote the program far and wide and dedicate staff from the Office of housing to help seniors fill out the paperwork.
- I will take a good, hard look at the impact of voter approved property tax increases on affordability. Despite the best intentions, layering on new or expanded property taxes hurts the most vulnerable, especially seniors on a fixed income and working-class families. Increases are also often passed from landlords to renters. When evaluating proposed property taxes, I will work to ensure we are addressing affordability issues and displacement – not making them worse by burdening working people.
Protecting our Environment
Stewardship of our natural resource has never been more important, nor has it ever been under such assault from the Federal Government. As a city, Seattle can and must be a national leader on sustainability and innovative green solutions. Minority communities and low-income individuals are disproportionately impacted by lax environmental policies, including the effects of climate change. This is unacceptable. For 11 years, I worked at the City Council where I helped to write, advance, and promote legislation at a time when Seattle was on the cutting edge of climate and zero waste policy. I then took those experiences to Fremont Brewing where we have been recognized as one of the top breweries in the country with regards to conservation. Protecting the environment is part of everything we do.
Here is my plan:
- I will urge the city to place more emphasis on renewable energy technologies. This includes supporting District 2030 and incentivizing electric car charging stations in multifamily projects. The city should install electric car charging stations on city arterials and partner with WSDOT to do the same on state highways. Let’s make Seattle a national leader!
- I will demand the city coordinates green building requirements and affordability requirements to ensure that both goals can be met efficiently and economically. I’ll accelerate permitting for transit-oriented projects, affordable housing, and green projects. We should bring together transit and housing policies and projects so that we can do both at the same time: not just transit-oriented development, but development-oriented transit.
- I will use my experience to help Seattle build the greenest business community in the nation. In addition to my work on the Envirostar program, I will advance a more robust utility incentive program. Many businesses are unaware of the incentive programs and the city must do more to make these programs known and readily available. We must also systematize Seattle Public Utilities' water conservation incentive program. I’ll work to enlist Puget Sound Energy as a partner. It’s time to get serious about making Seattle the national leader in green business.
- I will urge the city to revise building and land use codes to promote more sustainable construction options such as community land trusts and energy efficient buildings.
- I will put more emphasis on renewable energy initiatives such as District 2030 distributed energy systems such as anaerobic digesters for food waste (and brewery spent grain).
- I will demand the city implement updated Living Building pilot project and support the Deep Green pilot project (headed by 2030 District).
- I will revitalize and expand the Local Food Initiative.
Protecting and Advancing our Small Businesses
Small businesses are the fabric of our neighborhoods. They create jobs, support our local economy, and give back to our communities. They produce the goods, services, and gathering places that make Seattle a fun, vibrant, livable city. Seattle can and must do more to ensure that our local businesses thrive, especially our most vulnerable immigrant and minority-owned businesses. It is imperative that we create a city that is friendly and welcoming to new and existing small neighborhood businesses, so we can keep our city at the forefront of innovation and diversity.
Here's my plan:
- I will establish a Small Business Commission to evaluate new legislation that is likely to have a disproportionate impact on small businesses. Small businesses have fewer administrative resources than larger businesses and generally operate on fairly tight budgets.. It is especially important that the commission examine new legislation through the lens of the Race and Social Justice Initiative to make sure that new laws do not have a disproportionately negative impact on minority and immigrant-owned small businesses. These small, often family-owned businesses tend to be the most vulnerable to the increased cost and administrative burden of implementing new regulations or taxes. The commission will also help to ensure that employers get the education and support necessary to comply with existing and new labor laws.
- I will promote and expand the Envirostars Program. Seattle/King County’s “Envirostars” program will provide a one-stop shop to assist businesses in going green in their operations, facilities, and procurement processes. I am proud to be on the advisory committee to relaunch and expand this program. Seattle should be an effective partner with local businesses.
- I will continue to support streamlined permitting for new restaurants and bars.
Every resident of Seattle should have access to health services and affordable housing. No one should have to live on the streets. The affordability and housing crisis are only exacerbating the problem, but we also must do more to address the public health aspects that can lead to homelessness. It is simply unacceptable that individuals and families are having to live in encampments in our city. We must do more and we will do more.
Here is my plan:
- It’s time to stop conducting studies; it’s time to act. In 2016, the City commissioned a thorough expert study of our challenges with homelessness. The recommendations were clear, and it’s time to implement them. I support immediate implementation of Poppe study’s recommendations. This crisis has gone on long enough. It’s time to act.
- I support two primary strategies: rehousing and accountability. There are two primary keys to tackling our homelessness epidemic. The first key is rapid rehousing for those with a proven need. Getting people off the streets is not only humane, but decreases long-term costs associated with medical emergencies. The second part is holding service providers financially accountable. We need oversight to ensure taxpayer dollars are well-spent: not only to protect the taxpayers, but also to ensure we are effectively protecting the most vulnerable.
- I will help to improve partnership with King County to vastly expand mental health and drug addiction services. Seattle does not directly control most funding for mental health services, but the biggest thing we can do to reduce homelessness – besides building more affordable units – is to better-address mental health and drug addiction. I will work to forge and expand partnerships with the County toward this goal.
- Never stop seeking new solutions. Rapid rehousing and accountability should be central to Seattle’s plan – and we must act immediately. However, we should remain open to new evidence and new approaches. We are far from the only city grappling with these issues. I will work to increase collaboration and data-sharing between Seattle and cities across the nation. This is Seattle’s most urgent issue, and you have my pledge that I will work to ensure we don’t go at it alone.