Opinion: ‘Yes’ on Proposition 1—The need for renewed housing levy is great

Pradeepta Upadhyay July 21, 2016 0
InterIm CDA executive director Pradeepta Upadhyay delivered a speech on July 14 at a press conference at Hirabayashi Place about Proposition 1. • Photo by Travis Quezon

InterIm CDA executive director Pradeepta Upadhyay delivered a speech on July 14 at a press conference at Hirabayashi Place about Proposition 1. • Photo by Travis Quezon

Proposition 1, the Seattle Housing Levy, will appear on the August 2 Primary Ballot.

The primary focus of the housing levy is to fund affordable rental housing for low-income Seattle residents. The housing serves people with disabilities, seniors, families with children, formerly homeless individuals and families, and people working in low-wage jobs who might otherwise live far from the city. Levy funds can be used throughout the city for new construction of affordable housing or for preservation and improvements to existing buildings.

Proposition 1 calls for $290 million spanning 7 years. The median cost to Seattle homeowners, according to the city, is $122/year or $10.17/month (based on assessed value of $480,000).

Seattle’s current housing levy was established in 2009 for $145 million over 7 years through 2016.

For more information on the housing levy, visit http://www.seattle.gov/housing/levy.


The following is a speech by InterIm CDA executive director Pradeepta Upadhyay that was delivered on July 14 at a press conference at Hirabayashi Place about Proposition 1:

We are delighted that this historical building, Hirabayashi Place, and the Donnie Chin Community room, was selected as the venue for the press conference this morning. This building and the neighborhood carries a deep significance related to social justice and stories of the API and immigrant refugee communities.

We are a nonprofit affordable housing and community development organization based here in the International District. We provide multi-lingual, culturally competent housing and community building services to the API and immigrant refugee communities in WA State.

InterIm CDA has been serving the API/refugee immigrant community in the ID Chinatown area for over 47 years. Our organization was born out of the civil rights movement and was established in 1969. The International District for generations has been and continues to be the gateway for most API immigrants coming to the Pacific Northwest. Our organization was created to protect and preserve the rights of our community members and we are guided by our core values and principles which are embedded in social justice and equality for our communities.

One of our main focuses is on building low-income housing, like this building. The project is complete; we are hoping to complete the public art work in the next few months.

It is a mixed-use, transit oriented, workforce housing development that includes 96 apartments and, soon, a child care center, which will be operated by El Centro de la Raza.

Affordable housing has and continues to be very important and core to our work and mission. We exist because the neighborhood exists.

Funding a development like this is not easy. The financing gets cobbled together from multiple sources. But the housing levy is a key piece for financing and obtaining matching funds to build affordable homes, particularly for those below 60 percent of Area Median Income.

Hirabayashi Place would not have been built without funding from Seattle’s current housing levy. We need more buildings like this. Many more. The need is great.

Upwards of 20 percent of all Seattle households are identified as “severely cost burdened,” defined as households spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent and basic utilities like water, sewer, garbage, and electricity. For families living at or below 30 percent of area median income, 62%—roughly 21,500 households—are severely cost burdened.

Why people want to live here

This neighborhood is the cultural heart and soul for the API community; it is steeped in rich history and carries the heritage, legacy of struggles, challenges and success stories of the API immigrant/ refugees pioneers that came here before us and built the neighborhood.

As we begin to see the rapid development, we are concerned about displacement, which is already happening and will increase over the years. High cost of living and lack of affordable housing has forced many community members to live outside the neighborhood. This neighborhood is under a huge threat due to its proximity to the city and transportation services.

Rising rents, a surge in market rate development replacing older affordable housing have made it difficult for the most vulnerable and low-income populations to find housing here.

If we are hoping to ensure that Seattle does not become a city where only the wealthy can afford to live here, we need to a pass Proposition 1.

This public investment consistently meets, often exceeds, targets for construction and preservation of affordable housing units providing homes for families and school children and ensuring affordable housing options remain available for our seniors, and others living on fixed incomes. Voting “yes” on Proposition 1, continuing this tradition of public investment in affordable housing, is a smart decision.

This levy is the next step in Seattle’s long commitment to public investment in affordable housing. Beginning with 1981 Senior Housing Bond, Seattle has demonstrated a 35-year track record of strong success.

This is why it is important that we pass this renewed and expanded housing levy on the August primary ballot.

So, I ask everyone to join me, the mayor, all nine Seattle City Council members, the Housing Development Consortium, multiple Democratic Party organizations, the Martin Luther County King Labor Council, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Seattle Association, the Sierra Club, transit advocates, social justice organizations and many more in supporting Proposition 1 on the August 2 primary ballot.  

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