This month’s meeting of our area’s largest political organization, the 34th District Democrats. That’s where our report on Wednesday night’s meeting begins:
LOW-INCOME HOUSING: Introducing the presenters, second vice chair Sofia Aragon said the inspiration for the presentation was that, to say the least, it’s a “hot topic.” State/local government is deeply involved – one example she cited, the Legislature has $175 million in the Housing Trust Fund – something many states don’t have – and local jurisdictions are allowed to “carve out” part of the already-charged sales tax to use for housing. (The city announced a plan in July.) Another key part of addressing the problem, she said, was expanding the amount of time renters are given to find somewhere new if they’re evicted – they used to have as little as three days; now they have 14. Aragon talked about her mom’s career as a nurse and said there’s almost nowhere her mom could live in King County on a nurse’s pay.
First presenter: Robin Koskey of the city Office of Housing:
“The main thing we do … is provide financing for affordable housing” to be built. They also invest in “permanently affordable homeownership opportunities” like the two Mayor Durkan announced last week (involving surplus City Light properties in North Seattle). “And we are stewards of existing affordable housing” that they’ve funded over the years. (Here’s the newest annual report on investments [PDF].)
About 35 percent of Seattle households are “cost burdened” – spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. People of color are disproportionately affected – 27 percent of African Americans pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing, more than twice the percentage of whites. Also: “Family-size units affordable to low-income households are uncommon in Seattle.”
The city has “roughly 30,000 income- and rent-restricted affordable housing units.” More than 80 percent of them are in urban centers/urban villages. But that’s “a fraction of the demonstrated need.” She mentioned all this would be addressed in Mayor Durkan’s budget, due out September 23, and that these are issues whose champions include West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold.
The city has a dashboard showing affordable housing that’s under development
with about 5,300 units due to hit the market in the next year-plus. (The only all-affordable project shown in West Seattle is Transitional Resources‘ Yancy Street supportive housing, which hasn’t broken ground yet.)
Also speaking, Daniel Malone of DESC (which has a supportive-housing building in West Seattle, at 5444 Delridge Way SW). That building and many others in DESC’s fold provide permanent housing and other services to people who have “disabling conditions.” “It is the single evidence-based (practice) for ending chronic homelessness,” he declared. DESC also has six shelters with about 500 beds “that help keep people safe” but, he stressed, “shelter does not end homelessness – only housing ends homelessness.” DESC also provides services such as mental-health care (as noted when we spotlighted its Delridge complex Cottage Grove Commons on its fifth anniversary).
He said he hears a lot of “commnity dialogue” about “people who are broken, they need to be fixed, and if they don’t want to be fixed, we need to force them to.” But he said there’s no “magic” solution. Behavioral-health servces are vital but so is housing, so people can have a stable life.
He acknowledged “there is not a full vision for what the community needs to do about homelessness …there are a million ideas out there,” but nothing coherent. Yet. He sees hope that it will start aligning into a plan, though a “Regional Action Plan” is under development and consultants are likely to come forward with something more specifically identifying “gaps … and put a price tag on what it’s going to take to fill those gaps. “I think the [cost of a] solution to homelessness is going to have a B.”
Q&A included one about replicating programs like Camp Second Chance. Tiny-house villages “are not cheap to create,” noted Koskey. Finding sites “that neighborhoods feel comfortable with” is challenging too, she noted.
What about people with mental health/substance-abuse challenges? “Housing First,” getting them housed without requiring a commitment to treatment etc., is successful, Malone said.
Also at the meeting:
SCHOOL BOARD ENDORSEMENTS: The 34th already has endorsed incumbent Leslie Harris for Seattle Public Schools Board District 6 (West Seattle and most of South Park(. In the general election, all districts up for election are voted on citywide. Eric Blumhagen was endorsed for District 1. He talked about the district’s erroneous enrollment projections for high schools, saying they thought enrollment would drop by 700 – but in reality, enrollment is up. Also endorsed by unanimous vote, Rebeca Muñiz for District 3.
TREE RESOLUTION: The group voted in favor of a resolution supporting a revised city tree ordinance. Key points:
*Trees 6″ diameter and larger would be “significant trees,” protected
*New policies for removing them
*New city fund that in-lieu fees would be paid into
*Limit non-development sites to 2 significant-tree removals in 3 years
An opponent said big trees don’t belong in the city because they kill people, and that they limit housing development and solar-power access. A supporter countered that the proposal allows removal of hazard trees.
ELECTED OFFICIALS: State Sen. Joe Nguyen took the mic, saying “it’s been a busy couple of months” including a new baby in his family. The upcoming legislative session is short, just 60 days, but he’s looking forward to talking with community members about them. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is coming to C & P Coffee (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor) for 4:30 pm conversation on September 28th, he said. …
ANNOUNCEMENTS: Southwest Youth and Family Services‘ gala is October 5th at the Seattle Design Center… Tonight is the White Center Food Bank‘s annual dinner/auction at South Seattle College‘s Brockey Center … White Center Community Development Association is also having a gala, at Metropolist on September 20th.
The 34th District Democrats meet second Wednesdays most months, 7 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy. Watch 34dems.org for updates.