Ballots will go out in late January; the deadline for the special election is Feb. 14.
SEATTLE — In just a few weeks, the King County Election Department will mail out ballots allowing Seattle voters to decide on I-135, a petition-led initiative aimed at providing a new “social housing” framework.
If passed, the proposed ballot measure would create a “Seattle Social Housing Developer” to obtain and operate publicly-owned, permanently affordable housing. The “developer” would be a board made up of renters and professionals in fields such as green development and urban planning.
You can read more about the proposal according to its creators here.
“There are a number of existing organizations that build and operate affordable housing,” said Suresh Chanmugam, a software engineer and volunteer with Tech 4 Housing, which gathered signatures for I-135. “This is adding to that mix. It’s a different kind of financial model. There is nothing wrong with what those existing providers do, and we should increase the funding for what they do- but there are constraints.”
Chanmugam says this would focus on serving a broader range of incomes, empowering all workers to be able to stay in Seattle. That’s one of the reasons he encourages even people who it would not impact to vote yes.
“So that your friends who aren’t software engineers or who weren’t lucky enough like my wife and I, 20 years ago to buy a house, won’t have to leave,” Chanmugam said. “So that your city can function.”
Organizers explain the proposed funding mechanism here.
Some concerns have been raised about whether initial sources of funding would impact the availability of money for other forms of affordable housing.
The Housing Development Consortium said it is remaining neutral on the ballot measure because it is a “broad and diverse coalition with a diverse membership of people and organizations committed to increasing affordable housing in our region, state, and country,” and says if it passes, HDC will be a “great partner to make sure that public dollars that will need to be diverted to build out the infrastructure of this new entity are spent wisely and effectively,” but notes that “this should not come at the expense of existing community-based solutions that are working effectively right now to provide crucial affordable housing in our region.” The consortium points to recent work on JumpStart funds and current pushes for the renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy and King County Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy this year.
An I-135 spokesperson shared that organizers believe all of those efforts can co-exist.
The King County Elections Department said it will mail ballots out on Jan. 25, with 34 drop boxes opening starting on Jan. 26, all within 3 miles of participating jurisdictions. You can find the list of drop box locations here. The elections department says voters should receive their ballot by Monday, Jan. 30 and if they don’t, they should call 202-296-VOTE.
Elections is projecting a 33% turnout for the election, which would mean around 165,000 ballots returned.