District 1 Community Network hears from affordable-homeownership advocate, city’s lead lawyer

April 14, 2021 5:26 pm
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 |   Neighborhoods | South Park | West Seattle news

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Affordable housing and city law were the two centerstage topics at this month’s meeting of the District 1 Community Network, a West Seattle/South Park coalition of community advocates.

COMMUNITY LAND TRUST: Most talk of “affordable housing” focuses on renting. The Community Land Trust concept focuses on homeownership. Kathleen Hosfeld, executive director of Homestead Community Land Trust, explained it to D1CN attendees. In short – a Community Land Trust retains ownership of the land, which is leased by homebuyers, reducing the cost of houses.

Hosfeld says Community Land Trusts can “stabilize neighborhoods,” describing it as an “anti-displacement strategy.” The homes are made available to people with a certain percentage of the area’s mean income. This fills a gap in what’s available, because, she said, “there are no starter homes any more.” CLTs also can increase equity in homeownership opportunities – the homes sold by her organization have 55 percent BIPOC ownership, “more than double the [overall] King County rate.” Homeowners are members in the nonprofit and have voting shares.

Homestead owns 220 homes, including 52 that have resold, so it’s worked with more than 270 families, Hosfeld says. And they have a long waitlist of others interested – about 1,000 (here’s how to get on it). They are donation-supported (here’s how to give).

CITY ATTORNEY: Pete Holmes, running unopposed (so far) for re-election to a fourth 4-year term, made his second appearance of the year before a West Seattle-linked group. This one took a somewhat different direction than his February appearance before the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council, as most of the questions were asked by the meeting’s facilitator (D1CN rotates that role), Phil Tavel, who is a lawyer as well as vice president of the Morgan Community Association.

Attendees learned more about the inner workings of the office; Holmes said his office has more than 100 lawyers, four of them serving as precinct liaisons (including Joe Everett of the Southwest/South Precincts, who was also in attendance). That’s about half the total staff of his department, which represents the city in a variety of legal matters as well as serving as prosecution of misdemeanor crimes covered by the Seattle Municipal Code.

Holmes discussed how the pandemic had slowed down the legal system, with cases piling up because far fewer trials have been held in Seattle Municipal Court (felony crimes are handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Superior Court, and that’s backed up too). Holmes described it as a “crisis” that’s going to take years to dig out of. Also because of the pandemic, most misdemeanor suspects are not being booked into jail; the exceptions include DUI, domestic violence, other violent offenses, no-contact-order violations, stalking.

One prosecution-related question that was also asked at his WS Crime Prevention Council appearance: What’s the status of City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s proposal to study expanding the allowable defenses for some misdemeanors? As he had told the WSCPC, Holmes noted that the proposal is shelved indefinitely, again stressing that no legislation had even been drawn up. While he said it was “good for the council to entertain the debate,” he observed that there had been so much “backlash,” they didn’t really get to have a debate. He said he didn’t support the idea, though he does support some criminal-justice reform, including dropping prosecution of third-degree driving with a suspended license, aka “driving while poor,” as he put it. He also said he is not an advocate of “defunding” police, as he considers them currently “our principal deterrent” of crime. Since the City Council is still considering some cuts to SPD’s budget, he advised that “everyone pay attention” to the status of those proposals. He also urged people to pay attention to the larger societal issues and policies related to crime and safety; too often, in his view, “we call a cop instead of calling a legislator.”

D1CN meets – currently online – at 7 pm on the first Wednesday of the month; next meeting, May 5th.

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