Although 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.