Afternoon Jolt

Today’s losers: The Seattle Housing Authority.

As we reported she would last week, city council member Sally Clark distributed a letter to the public-housing agency to her council colleagues this morning lambasting SHA for its “Stepping Forward” program, which would divorce SHA tenants’ rents from their income, increasing the rents paid by tenants SHA deems “work-able” more than 400 percent over the next five years.

Currently, SHA tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Under the new policy, tenants SHA believes are capable of working, including single parents and those with limited English skills, would see their rent rise sharply over several years, with the goal of moving tenants off public assistance and reducing SHA’s 9,000-person waiting list. In exchange for higher rent, tenants would get job assistance and access to social services.

The proposal has been almost universally unpopular. Last week, tenants and housing activists walked out of an SHA meeting to discuss Stepping Forward in High Point, rallying around socialist council member Kshama Sawant, an opponent of the proposal, in a gym across the hall from SHA’s official presentation.

Today’s council letter asks SHA to set aside the rent-increase portion of its proposal and continue only with the “workforce pilot” program, which would give SHA residents educational and job-training assistance.

“SHA’s goal of supporting economic self-sufficiency for work able adults in SHA supported housing is laudable and something we all support,” the letter says. “However, we have not seen information to show the availability of sufficient culturally competent and proven-effective workforce resources nor the required pathways to successful job placement required for participants to successfully meet the proposed stepped rent increases included in the proposal.

“For that reason,” the letter continues, “we urge the SHA board to drop consideration of the rent changes included in the Stepping Forward proposal.”

Today’s letter, which the council sent to SHA director Andrew Lofton this afternoon, comes after Mayor Ed Murray’s own, similar letter to Lofton in late July, in which Murray concluded that “based on the information you have shared with my staff, I cannot support the changes contemplated in the Stepping Forward proposal.”  

Four seats on SHA's governing board are up for appointment this year (of those, two—both resident representatives—are seeking reappointment), and SHA is not expected to make a final decision on Stepping Forward until next year.


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