On Thursday, July 21, King County Elections finished the signature validation process for I-135, which would create publicly owned, permanently affordable social housing throughout Seattle. In the end, 21,487 signatures were accepted, but House Our Neighbors! needed 26,520, so we have more than 5,000 signatures to gather. Fortunately, the Seattle City Charter allows for a 20-day window to do just that.
We knew that the number of signatures we were submitting left only a slim buffer for error, but our eyes were fixed on getting on the November ballot and meeting the urgency of the housing crisis in Seattle. King County Elections advised us that it would take about five weeks to validate these many signatures. As a result, we calculated the last day that the City Council could put initiatives on the November ballot (Aug. 2) and determined that submitting signatures on June 22 would give us the best chance at being on the November ballot.
The majority of challenged signatures were from folks not registered at their current residence. We were extremely diligent in asking folks if they were registered to vote, and we registered nearly 200 voters during the signature-gathering phase. Renters sometimes move each year, oftentimes due to their rents increasing. This further illustrates why so many need social housing.
Though we will ballot on the February 2023 rather than the November 2022 ballot, we are not deterred. We cannot continue relying on the private housing market to meet our housing needs. Each year that the city of Seattle doesn’t propose radical solutions to our affordable housing needs, rents continue to rise, more of our neighbors are pushed into homelessness, Black and Brown communities are displaced and low-wage workers are priced out of the city .
Seattle urgently needs solutions that respond to the magnitude and scale of our housing and homelessness crises right now. We need to rapidly pull more housing off the private market and ensure that folks making between 60 percent and 120 percent of the area median income have access to housing that meets their income levels. We need housing where folks can “grow in place” and not have to constantly worry about losing benefits when their incomes rise.
Relying on what the federal government sets aside to finance our affordable housing needs will never solve our affordability crisis. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) and Project-Based Vouchers will never meet our needs. They were never intended to. The city of Seattle would do well to broaden its understanding of what’s possible for solving our housing crisis. Social housing is the missing piece to truly meet our affordable housing needs at scale.
Our dedicated base of volunteers and staff are back out there gathering signatures. Although the signature gathering process is hard work, we are continuing to build meaningful connections with our neighbors. We have heard story after story from renters this summer and want to deliver on our goal to create a city that everyone can afford to live in.