Standing Against Foreclosure & Eviction
HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT!
Join us every Tuesday for SAFE’s weekly solidarity meeting!
Where: 4200 S Othello Street
**At this location this week only**
When: 7pm, join us at 6:30pm for a shared meal beforehand! ALL are welcome!
* More information regarding displacement under Updates Section
UPCOMING ACTIONS & EVENTS
Stay Tuned For Bulletin Updates
After her move, deputies posted a letter on Jo-An’s door saying that the only stuff left in the house was debris and “nothing of value”. Dishes, clothes, furniture, etc. are still inside the locked house. This was very upsetting to Jo-Ann because the items left in the house are remnants of the last 15 years of her and her family’s lives.
Jo-An is working on getting inside her house to get the stuff back, but the real estate broker says that if SAFE shows up with her to collect her belongings, then he will keep it locked. Jo-Ann was informed by other SAFE members that this is illegal. Jo-An’s appeal still has not gone before a judge — the Sheriff lied and said that the appeal was denied.
THE Bartons asked for the sale of their house to be overturned, plus damages, due to debt collectors not answering any calls to court. They have been silent for 70+ days. If the sale is overturned, then the auction of the house was in fact illegal. If the sale is overturned, will Sheriff Urquhart enforce the law for the Barton’s? We will see.
We had a couple of actions this week in our push for Sheriff John Urquhart to quit interpreting the law and start enforcing it. At this time, Sheriff Urquhart is still refusing to carry out transparent evictions. The reason for this push is so that people like the Barton and Rose families are not traumatized by being pulled from their homes at 6:30 in the morning in a manner that resembles an Israeli raid on the Gaza strip rather than an eviction being carried out by a United States law enforcement agency on US soil.
The first action of the week was delivery of a letter to the King County Council on Monday September 8th. There was public comment at the full Council meeting as the Council was planning on voting on an ordinance that would give the Sheriff’s Office approximately $450,000 for cost of living adjustments for it’s communications workers.
With the recent reinstatement of choke hold training and resignation of Charles Gaither, the director of the Office Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO), there were a number of other community members at the council meeting voicing their concerns over the manner in which Sheriff John Urquhart operates his office. Several members of the NAACP including current president of the Seattle/King County Chapter Gerald Hankerson were in attendance and spoke. Other people including Ivy Williams of SAFE and civil rights leader, Juan Jose Bocanegra spoke eloquently about the urgent need for law enforcement accountability in the King County Sheriff’s office.
The second action SAFE attended was a community meeting at Tyee High School in Sea Tac. This meeting was hosted by King County Councilperson Dave Upthegrove. In attendance were King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and Sheriff John Urquhart and community leaders. The topic of the meeting was “Can Ferguson Happen Here”.
As the meeting progressed, the outrage of the majority of those in attendance rang through. Issues such as racism, overstepping by the Sheriff’s Office, and lack of accountability were discussed.
Sheriff Urquhart’s reaction? He was smug at times and rattled at others. At one point he attempted to make a joke about the anxiety that many experience when stopped by law enforcement. His joke, “rue the first officer who tries to write me a ticket”. While this was intended as a joke, this is the same attitude that he has exhibited in illegally evicting homeowners who have been victimized by the banking system.
SAFE is still suffering from displacement, and in desperate need of a new place to call home. We are currently looking for storage, office, & meeting space. Specifications are as follows:
- 50 square feet of storage space for miscellaneous supplies
- Small office space to be used 3-4 days a week
- Meeting space to accommodate up to 40 people
Being a grassroots organization, our budget is shoestring at best, so please bear that in mind. We would also want a 12 month lease.
~SAFE Has Been Nominated For A Social Justice Award~
On Tuesday August 26th the organization Class Action announced that SAFE has been nominated to receive the Cross-Class Bridge Builder Award. The criteria for nomination is as follows
Actively pursue participation by people of diverse classes and races
Raise the voices and support the leadership of working class and poor people
Have an organizational culture that draws on the strengths of all class cultures
Other Seattle Organizations nominated are:
Help SAFE achieve more victories. Donate to our current Indigogo Campaign. Only 14 days left to contribute! Any & all support helps!
NEWS FROM OUR FRIENDS & PARTNERS
Seattle City Council’s Planning Land Use and Planning Committee is voting Sept 16 on new legislation governing both micro-housing and “Small Efficiency Dwelling Units” (SEDU). Your email, letter, or phone call to councilmembers could decide this vote.
Friday, Sept 5, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee discussed his proposed legislation for regulating micro-housing. The councilmembers present (O’Brien, Licata, Burgess, Clark, and Rasmussen) discussed specific legislation for the Small Efficiency Dwelling Units (SEDU’s) that will replace micro-housing. Votes will be taken by the PLUS Committee on Sept 16 and by the full Council later in September. It is imperative that your representatives hear from you before 9/16 so that this proposed legislation will create laws that are fair for all involved, including neighborhoods effected by these dwellings and the residents of these units, not just stakeholders/developers.
The fact that this legislation is being considered is a major credit to the neighborhoods and their persistence in demanding this housing be properly regulated. That said, there are several deficiencies in the current legislation. Therefore, we need neighbors who are concerned about this issue to take a few moments to email councilmembers (emails listed below) and Mayor Murray to ask that several improvements be made to the proposed legislation.
The proposed legislation is a compromise reached between representatives of the neighborhoods, residents of these types of buildings, and developers of these buildings. While it may not be ideal, if strengthened by residents demand for additional amendments, this legislation would significantly alleviate the growing problem of unregulated micro-housing in our residential neighborhoods.
The following are key points that need to be addressed and added in order to strengthen the proposed legislation. These key points can be added as amendments by any councilmember to make this legislation more effective:
1. The minimum unit size should be an absolute 220 square feet. Be informed that this is the minimum size set by the International Building Code (IBC) to provide “adequate space and ventilation necessary for health and well being.” O’Brien’s proposal calls for an average of 220 square feet. His solution means many residents will be forced to live in spaces much smaller (180 square feet) than the IBC recommends is healthy. Other cities such as Boston and NYC have minimums well above at 300-400 square feet. San Francisco recently mandated 220 square feet as it’s minimum. Insist that the Seattle minimum unit size be 220 square feet!
2. Design Review should be triggered by unit count—not by square footage. All multi-family buildings in Seattle should be treated equally with regard to design review thresholds so that unintended incentives are not provided to some developers over others. In fairness to developers and neighborhoods insist that design review for these types of buildings be triggered by unit count! Mike O’Brien’s proposal would have design review for these types of buildings triggered by square footage and that square footage threshold for triggering full, neighborhood input allowed, design review is currently placed so high that only a small portion (5 of the over 60 currently being built or operated)of these buildings would be subjected to it. Lack of design review and neighborhood notice was one of the key issues that inflamed neighborhoods regarding these buildings. Insist on fairness, insist that design review thresholds be triggered by unit count!
3. Congregate housing must be legislated for institutional use only, as traditionally intended and as historically defined in the International Building Code. Allowing congregate housing for non-profit developments, which CM O’Brien’s legislation permits, would continue an unfortunate housing type, akin to historically problematic SROs. Insist that congregate housing be used for institutional use only.
4. Sinks should be mandatory in both bathrooms and kitchens (kitchenettes). This is basic health and sanitation folks. There should be separate washing facilities for food preparation areas and bathrooms. Mike O’Brien and some developers think one sink in the food preparation area and none in the bathroom is sufficient. That’s just gross! Insist that two sinks be mandatory!
There is strong support among councilmembers to adopt the neighborhood proposals mentioned above but developers are against this so please contact your representatives to let them know what you want added to this legislation. This legislation is in a critical stage of development and needs Seattle resident’s input in order to become more effective. Emails should be sent before the vote on September 16th. Please take a few moments to write an email and list the points mentioned above.
Seattle City Council & Mayor Contact Info
Sally J. Clark
Tim Burgess, Council President
Bruce A. Harrell
Contact Mayor Murray using this form
Outside City Hall: SHA’s planned rent increases threaten to displace hundreds of low income families “and turn the agency into the city’s biggest rent gouger”
– Carolee Colter and John V. Fox (reprinted from September 2014 Pacific Publishing Newspapers)
If Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) goes through with its recently announced plan euphemistically called “Stepping Forward”, the agency would instantly turn into the city’s biggest rent gouger.
There are about 4600 very low-income families with a working-aged adult in their household living in SHA’s public housing or holding a voucher that helps cover a portion of their rent in a privately owned unit. Under SHA’s proposal, rents would more than double for any of these families if they hold that unit or voucher for more than four years.
For example, a household earning $15,000 a year (most SHA households actually earn less) now is paying no more than $400-$500 a month in rent (assuming the HUD standard of no more than 30 percent of income spent on rent). Suddenly, in year five this household would be required to pay $1200 a month for that same unit. To afford that, their income would have to rise from less than 30 percent of area median income to about 80 percent–around $45,000 a year. That’s a wage of about $21-$22 an hour, more than the average Seattle worker earns.
Since the average stay now in SHA housing is about eight years, a majority of SHA’s tenants, over 2300 households, could face dramatic rent increases. The city’s poorest families, most of them people of color, would be forced to pay as much as 50, 60, 70 percent of their limited income on rent. Many likely would be forced onto the streets.
SHA claims that its current rent structure is somehow a “disincentive to work for some”–as if SHA tenants are not doing all they can to avail themselves of training, schooling, and other services they need to find a livable wage and move up and out of subsidized housing.
Setting aside this argument’s moralistic overtones, SHA’s own data tell a different story. The vast majority of affected adults hold down one or even two jobs, and vigorously seeks services to help access better paying jobs.
The real reason many households stay longer in subsidized housing is simple—there aren’t enough livable wage jobs available, nor does the market provide an adequate supply of affordable rentals even if they found such a job. Even the average wage earner cannot afford the average priced rental in Seattle.
SHA promises to partner with social service agencies to provide “wraparound” services (job training, counseling, schooling, daycare) so affected households can find a good job by year five and either pay the increased rents or move out. But even if SHA comes up with the extra millions to dramatically expand these services (without diverting them from other low-income populations), that still would not change the lack of good jobs and affordable privately owned rentals.
SHA also asserts the change is needed to accelerate turnover in units so it can serve more of the thousands now on their waiting list. We ask how can anyone legitimize the displacement of one group of low-income people in order to serve another?
According to a February report by Seattle’s Office of Housing, there are about 47,000 households citywide earning at or below 30 percent of median income, but only about 20,000 rentals affordable to this group. And most of those are owned by SHA or non-profit housing agencies. SHA raising rents on a couple thousand units would cause a crippling and permanent reduction in the city’s supply of very low-income housing stock and negate what took years and millions in levy dollars to produce!
The solution is to devote more of SHA’s resources towards expanding our stock of very low-income units. In contrast, SHA in recent years has put most of its funds–around a billion dollars–into higher-income housing, such as the 3000 expensive high-rise apartments and condominiums planned for Yesler Terrace.
Despite its growing investment in market-rate development earning millions in extra revenue each year, SHA claims federal budget cuts are forcing it to raise rents to cover a shortfall of operating revenues. Our review of SHA budgets, however, shows a series of annual budget surpluses of about $20 million and, instead of reductions, a slow steady increase in operating revenues.
Further, SHA has accumulated about $70 million in the state’s Local Investment Pool. Where did these dollars come from and where are they going? Clearly, they’re not being used to keep rents low for our city’s poorest households – the folks SHA is chartered to serve.
And this gets to the crux of the matter. These rent increases likely are just another way to help SHA finance its ambitious move into market-rate development.
In an unprecedented step for a sitting Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he “cannot support” these rent increases, citing “disproportionate” impacts on people of color and first generation immigrants. It reminds us of the notorious phrase from the military during the Vietnam War, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”.
(If you are as upset about this as we are, please call or email your City Councilmembers today and tell them to put a stop to SHA’s plans. The City gives away millions of our tax dollars to SHA, including our precious housing levy money, supposedly to help SHA expand our city’s very low income housing stock. And here they are considering a move to raise rents and effectively destroy a large chunk of that supply. If you don’t want to see your housing levy and tax dollars wasted, call the City Council today. And don’t let them tell you they have no authority over SHA. It’s baloney! They make all appointments to SHA’s board. They give SHA upzones worth millions and hand them your tax dollars on a platter. Original agreements with SHA, that our City Council prefers to ignore, also give the City authority over “disposition of all SHA’s public housing.”. Our electeds have to “JUST SAY NO!” to SHA)
Tim Burgess – (206) 684-8806c – Tim.Burgess@seattle.gov
We are rapidly approaching a critical opportunity for community members to raise our concerns publicly about the new youth jail.
Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, End the Prison Industrial Complex & European Dissent need
YOU to speak out in front of the Seattle City Council THIS WEEK.
WHEN: Thursday, September 18th 2:00 – 3:00pm
WHERE: 600 Fourth Ave. Seattle, WA 98104
City Hall Council Chambers
WHY: The Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee of the Seattle City Council is holding a hearing to decide whether or not to grant the permits that are needed to build the new youth jail. Up until now, the “community input” that King County has gathered has been from an all White group of neighbors. The current design reflects the cosmetic needs of this group and ignores the voices of those who will be most deeply impacted. Tell the City Council to listen to community and VOTE NO on all youth jail permits.
What can you do?
1. Attend the hearing on Thursday, September 18 from 2:00 – 3:00pm at City Hall and share a 1-2 minute testimony about why you oppose the building permits being issued.
2. If you cannot attend, write a brief statement about why you oppose the building of the new youth jail.
3. Help us with outreach and forward this widely.
Incarceration harms young people. There are many alternatives to incarceration that have been utilized in other places such as Multnomah County. We should be working towards a future in which caging our children is not necessary rather than continuing to pour money into a broken system.
We need community accountability. Community accountability has been completely lacking during the process of deciding to build and design the new youth jail. Those who are most affected by the juvenile justice system have a critical perspective that has been silenced.
An anti-racist approach is needed. 8% of young people in King County are Black. The current youth jail is 42% Black. The disproportionality of our current youth jail is the result of systemic racism. The King County jail will continue to incarcerate youth of color at higher rates unless we fundamentally change the system.
A Statewide Conversation:
Coordinating Our Efforts to Stop the Criminalization of Homelessness
In May 2014, hundreds of service providers, policymakers and people experiencing homelessness gathered in Yakima for the Conference on Ending Homelessness. One of the workshops centered on the possibility of the formation of a homeless bill of rights. Many attendees signed up to join the effort.
As an outgrowth of that workshop, a conversation will be hosted at Seattle University (we hope other partners will offer to host subsequent conversations in other parts of the state). This first conversation will focus, in particular, on the criminalization of homelessness across Washington and efforts to collect data to combat such criminalization. By the end of the meeting, we hope to:
Identify specific ways we can work together to address criminalization in Washington
Discuss current and ongoing data collection efforts that support our work
Identify others who would like to participate in these data collection efforts going forward
Discuss next steps for how to structure and coordinate our ongoing collaborative efforts.
Date: Friday, September 26, 2014
Time: 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. (feel free to bring a brown bag lunch; food will available for purchase at the Student Union cafeteria)*
Location: Seattle University Student Center Room 210. Room 210 is on the second floor of the building.
We are still hoping to be make the conversation remotely available to those who cannot attend in person, at least through a video recording. If you are unable to attend in person, but would like updates on remote options, please select REMOTE PARTICIPATION while registering.
*If the cost of parking or a brown bag lunch is a hardship, please contact Sara Rankin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please RSVP and share this invite with others you think would be interested in a statewide discussion about building a coordinated statewide effort to advance the rights of homeless people across Washington!