ELECTION 2023: Less than 3 weeks until your next ballot arrives

checkbox.jpgAlthough this year’s biggest election will be the City Council primary in August, that won’t be the first election of the year. You’ll get a ballot in less than three weeks for the February 14th special election, with just one measure on your ballot: Seattle Initiative 135. Not familiar with it? Here’s the text that you’ll see:

City of Seattle Initiative Measure 135 concerns developing and maintaining affordable social housing in Seattle.

This measure would create a public development authority (PDA) to develop, own, and maintain publicly financed mixed-income social housing developments. The City would provide start-up support for the PDA. The City Council would determine the amount of ongoing City support. Before it transfers any public lands for nonpublic use, the City would be required to consider a transfer to the PDA. The PDA’s Charter would govern the election, composition, and duties of the PDA’s Board of Directors.

So what’s “social housing”? Here’s how the organization behind the initiative explains it:

Housing created outside of the private market, publicly financed and publicly controlled. Unlike public housing models in the United States, social housing does not rely on profit motives, the private market or private partnerships, which creates permanent affordability and housing free from market speculation. Residents and their homes are shielded from the free market, with specific measures prohibiting the sale and marketization of social housing to ensure it remains in the public’s hands, for public use.

Also from their FAQ page, the explanation of “who will pay for it?”, since the city “start-up support” does NOT include funding:

Our initiative follows the path of the Pike Place Market and the monorail. This is a multi-step process. We are setting up the structure and the vision to get this public developer started, then we will begin raising money. We are pursuing several options, but money that is available today will not necessarily be the extent of what’s available tomorrow.

Once the public developer is established, they can receive and request funds from city, state, federal governments, as well as private donations if those donors feel so inclined.

You can read the full text of I-135 here. For a slightly shorter overview, see this page on supporters’ site (which also includes the full text). The House Our Neighbors political committee of Real Change gathered signatures to get it on the ballot. No opposition campaign is registered, so far. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed January 25th. Not registered to vote? Here’s how to do it.

49 Replies to "ELECTION 2023: Less than 3 weeks until your next ballot arrives"

  • jane January 7, 2023 (10:05 pm)

    This is an easy NO from me.

  • Question Authority January 7, 2023 (10:08 pm)

    There is no way this will end well, cost overruns, mismanagement, never self sustainable and not enough revenue coming in to maintain the buildings.  A strong NO vote is the way to go. 

    • Josh January 7, 2023 (11:51 pm)

      Sounds like you should organize an opposition.  I can see how this could go poorly or could turn out really well.  It does seem awfully nebulous but it also sounds like it doesnt cost anybody anything at the outset so whats the harm in trying?

      • Chad January 8, 2023 (7:13 am)

        Plenty of harm. They will have no money upfront but can request funds from the city and state in the future. So then your future taxes get routed to this group unilaterally, leaving less money available for all other existing programs. Then the same politicians who wanted this complain there isn’t enough money to fund the city and then raise/add taxes to replenish the funds given for publicly owned housing. We all end up funding it ourselves in that case. By definition, if they aren’t running at breakeven (“lack of profit motive”) the red ink will spill over every year and new funds will constantly be needed to keep it going (aka a ponzi scheme). 

        • snaps January 8, 2023 (10:37 am)

          Would you agree that the current programs are not working? The housing and homelessness crisis is getting worse not better. Why not explore options that would do more for people, and maybe at less expense to taxpayers? 

        • josh January 9, 2023 (2:10 am)

          Youre right. Given its possible this could be a trojan horse to a levy we should just continue to do little to nothing and house people in hospitals and Jails, super cost effective and free to the taxpayer.

  • Adam January 8, 2023 (12:41 am)

    I feel like we’re lucky this is being voted on now and not 3-6 years ago

  • Lauren January 8, 2023 (2:16 am)

    Eager to vote YES. 

  • WS Guy January 8, 2023 (2:32 am)

    Public housing has been a failure every time it’s been tried.  After “the projects” ended in the 1980s I didn’t think I’d see this bad idea ever again.

  • Mj January 8, 2023 (7:46 am)

    And what is it costing to run the special election?

  • Andrew January 8, 2023 (8:00 am)

    What about transparenc?. Will the PDA be required to make its finances public?

  • Anne January 8, 2023 (8:13 am)


  • Jeff January 8, 2023 (9:01 am)

    If the city council really actually wanted to increase the supply of housing, they could do it with the stroke of a pen.    Change zoning and allow 4-8 units on basic residential lots anywhere in the city, and private developers and property owners will increase numbers at a rate a city program couldn’t begin to hope for. 

    • Snaps January 8, 2023 (10:27 am)

      Changing zoning is also a great tool, but I think we need an option that is not subject to the whims of the free market that currently has created a situation where many locals can no longer afford to live here. Seattle should not be a playground for only the rich or tourists. 

    • PDiddy January 8, 2023 (9:16 pm)

      I think this is a misconception. Affordable houses are torn down to put 4-6 unaffordable townhouses on that same lot. I see it everywhere along delridge and its actually had the opposite effect on increasing affordable housing. All the folks that cant afford queen anne and other neighborhoods can certainly overpay here. I am on the fence on this initiative. What I want to know is whether this is another levy in hiding which makes it an instant no. But if its about reforming affordable housing and keeping a system that is balanced and not a section 8 free for all then it could be worth looking into. I just dont have enough info on this to make a decision yet.

  • snaps January 8, 2023 (9:04 am)

    This can be a great tool toward getting people off the streets. Studies show that it is cheaper for taxpayers to house the homeless rather than the cycle of services in place now. Plus, it avoids the hidden but enormous problem of people hoarding and profiting off rental units to sub rent them out as short term rentals (Airbnb, VRBO). Whatever confidence you have or don’t in local government, this is a compassionate and much needed step in the right direction.

  • Alex January 8, 2023 (9:08 am)

    When this idea was first discussed in the Seattle Times, I thought there was mention that this idea required changes in zoning – houses would be replaced with multistory apartment buildings.     It seems like this idea is competing against Seattle’s MHA program.    Where is Social Housing funding going to come from?

  • Mj January 8, 2023 (10:07 am)

    What does it cost to run a special election?  

  • More Taxes January 8, 2023 (12:25 pm)

    Everyone bitches that Seattle is so expensive to live in.  Our elected officials constantly complain about the high property values & the lack of affordable housing.  Any yet on almost every election ballot there is a measure to fund another pet project, usually raising property taxes.  When you raise property taxes you will also RAISE RENTS & RAISE most mortgage payments.  They don’t come out & say it but this is another pet project that you & I will pay for … no thanks.

  • Spicy Eight Piece January 8, 2023 (12:30 pm)

    I’m a hard NO as well. I don’t think we should create entities unless we know exactly what the purpose, procedures, and permanence are and this has not been fully explained. Until then, no blank checks for well-intentioned notions.

    • Ms. Spartkles January 9, 2023 (12:24 pm)

      Well said. I recognize & agree we need a non-profit system free of market demands to house people, and REALLY want this to be a start…. but it’s too vague.  I need for it to have a set funding source, a board voted on by the taxpayer’s who fund it and public disclosure requirements for their financials and progress.

  • Tracey January 8, 2023 (1:36 pm)

    When the city address the REAL issue, they may get my vote. Those people count on the renters in the city to vote for these continued failed initiatives because there is zero direct monetary impact to them. It’s all feel good smoke and mirrors. 🤬

    • Jon Wright January 8, 2023 (3:30 pm)

      How unsettling it must be for the landed gentry that the serfs can band together and pass laws! 

      • Scarlett January 8, 2023 (7:02 pm)

        And hypocritical, considering the landed gentry, as you put it, were the greatest beneficiaries of government largesses over the past decade, vis a vis low interest rates, pumping up their home values.  

      • Dave January 10, 2023 (9:49 pm)

        A brilliant comment!Buy a small city lot and you are now part of the landed gentry!Too bad we can’t adapt the title of Laird….

    • Johnny Stulic January 8, 2023 (6:18 pm)

      It is an erroneous assumption that renters face zero monetary impact. As the taxes, labor, and material cost  rise, so do rents. Especially in the years of high construction loan interest like nowadays when little is being built for obvious reasons. There are only two groups of people directly and indirectly subsidizing all these “affordable” housing projects: those who own and those who rent.

      • Question Authority January 8, 2023 (8:39 pm)

        And in Seattle the City Council has made it a lengthy process to raise rents therefore forcing the landlords to cover increased costs on their own, that until those costs can be passed down by rent.

  • My two cents January 8, 2023 (3:29 pm)

    While well intended, we don’t need to continually increase the fragmented approach to the homeless population  and housing issues.  

  • Scarlett January 8, 2023 (4:08 pm)

    I have serious misgivings about this PDA, but the market isn’t going to provide affordable housing so we are left with few options.  

    • Johnny Stulic January 8, 2023 (6:19 pm)

      There is no such thing as affordable housing. It’s a euphemism for subsidized housing.

      • Spicy Eight Piece January 8, 2023 (7:57 pm)

        For the win. Give that man a Nobel prize in Economics! The corollary T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L. immediately comes to mind. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. 

      • Scarlett January 8, 2023 (8:24 pm)

        Got news for you, pal, we’re all subsidized in one way or another.  Homeowners have a myriad of tax breaks at their disposal, including capital gain exclusion (usually) when they sell a primary residence.  Try a little noblesse oblige once in a while.  

        • Suresh January 8, 2023 (11:34 pm)

          Yup. The mortgage interest tax deduction has been a multibillion dollar a year subsidy that mostly benefits wealthy homeowners. https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/358922-mortgage-interest-deduction-mostly-benefits-the-rich-end-it/amp/

          • Johnny Stulic January 9, 2023 (7:17 pm)

            First of all, if homeowners are “already subsidized”, then why give double subsidies to a select few? Do they work harder than someone who works two jobs to afford a non-affordable house? Second, how does tax deduction mostly benefit wealthy homeowners? Do they happen to carry mortgages in a higher proportion to the not wealthy? You’d think the opposite was true.Some of you should think things through before frantically attacking the keyboard in a response.

  • Derrick January 8, 2023 (5:41 pm)

    Have we done anything to reduce single family homes being purchased by financial entities / investors and then rented out? Have we done anything to change zoning to allow more dense housing? Have we done anything to reduce short-stay rentals (ie AirBnB) from neighborhoods designed to be residential ?It seems that we have some obvious strategies that we can start with to address the housing crisis in the region. This project certainly SOUNDS nice on the surface, but the details don’t seem to have been considered and the project does not sound sustainable or like it will meaningfully more the needle to address issues. 

    • PDiddy January 8, 2023 (9:22 pm)


  • Frog January 8, 2023 (9:54 pm)

    What I wonder is — how is the proposed new entity different from the Seattle Housing Authority?  Why is a new entity with additional bureaucracy and patronage jobs needed, when SHA seems to already have that brief?  Also, if there are 50 eligible people for every unit they manage to build, how will the lucky ones be chosen?

  • Mj January 8, 2023 (10:03 pm)

    aPodment units are available now for less than $900 a month!  A person working full time at $20, plenty of jobs available, an hour can afford to pay rent!

    • josh January 9, 2023 (2:15 am)

      You too can live in a closet and work 60 hours a week at three different jobs!!!  Think of all the cost savings you get from never having any free time!!

    • Derek January 9, 2023 (7:45 am)

      Almost every single one of them are rented out. Cheapest one ($825 a month) is not available, as I just called about it at the CD location, and you misrepresent what utilities and phone and gas, bus fare, etc. cost in this city to be able to afford that on a minimum wage job), 

  • Derek January 9, 2023 (7:42 am)

    How about addressing the real issue: poverty. Higher wages and corporate taxes (Amazon and Starbucks and Boeing reap the benefits of our labor for cheap…time to pay the piper). 

  • bg January 9, 2023 (3:41 pm)

    Apparently, the big idea is that they want to make rents based on income, so the higher income earners can “cross-subsidize” the others. That’s not a terrible idea in and of itself, but they also want to have minimal barrier applications with no background checks, and accept tenants paying 0$. It seems obvious this won’t work, because the higher end of the rent scale will be the first to leave when troublesome neighbors move in, and it will necessarily become heavily subsidized by the city.

    We already have many housing organizations like SHA who have proven expertise in supplying missing middle housing. Why not give more support to those groups? This is an experiment which could be piloted by a new non-profit instead of the city.


  • Peter January 9, 2023 (6:40 pm)

    This doesn’t actually identify any funding, it’s all based on prospectively asking for funding in the future. That “financing” doesn’t make any sense, it’s pie in the sky, rose colored glasses stuff, not a realistic proposal. The real nefarious part is requiring that they get first pick of available city property, regardless of any other potential use, but there’s no requirement that that land then be used for housing, so there’s nothing to stop them from just reselling it. No part of this makes any sense. I can’t support this, it stinks of being a scam, both financially and operationally. 

  • Scarlett January 10, 2023 (9:20 am)

    Subidized housing  has a long history in this country. The Seattle Yesler Terrace is an example of the housing reforms that came out of the New Deal and the Housing Act of 1937.   They were necessary to remedy the desperate substandard living conditions many were living in during that period, and of course, they received the pushback as we are seeing today.  Today, homeowners today enjoy a number of tax breaks, including a capital gains exclusion on their their residence (up to $500,000 per couple) that are increasingly only available to them (or often inherited) and then they airily critique a a proposal that may help people with a roof over their heads.  It’s odious. 

  • tim January 12, 2023 (8:32 am)

    Make all rentals property tax exempt. Problem solved.

  • Juanita January 12, 2023 (9:24 am)

    I haven’t lived in Seattle for very long so please excuse my ignorance.  Is there any reason why current office buildings that are vacant can’t be converted into housing?  All of the major infrastructure needed would already be in place which should vastly reduce the time people must wait to be housed once the building was converted to residential use.  Or maybe even a mixed use building with some retail businesses on the ground floor.  These building are often near transit reducing the need for cars or already have parking available. There have to be buildings where commercial tenants just aren’t going to return to that could be put to better use.  I lived in Cali for a few years and often brought this up.  The laws have recently been changed to do this: https://www.npr.org/2022/09/29/1125930181/affordable-housing-shortage-california-commercial-real-estate-zoning-laws  I’m not saying our plan should look exactly like this one, but its a start.  No solution is going to make everyone happy but I believe you should be able to live in the type of neighborhood you’d like to and/or that fits your budget.  If living in a neighborhood of single family houses is your thing then great.  If you prefer more densely populated neighborhoods, that’s great too.  There should be room and acceptance for all here.

    • reed January 24, 2023 (12:54 pm)

      Hi Juanita, and welcome to Seattle. There is a very simple answer to your question. Seattleites want solutions to homeless, but they don’t want to pay for it or see it in there neighborhood.

  • Vlad January 24, 2023 (11:30 am)

    Legislation to steal money, pork barrel projects in seattle are a travesty. Lots of money go in, nothing ever happens.  Heavy NO!

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