• Alex Garland
  • "Housing is a human right, fight fight fight!" shouted low-income housting tenants as they filed into Yesler Terrace Community Center on September 17.

After months of outcry from low-income housing tenants and affordable housing advocates, the Seattle Housing Authority is backing off on a plan to raise rents on thousands of people.

"It is clear that we did not succeed in getting this message across through our outreach efforts," SHA Director Andrew Lofton said in a letter (PDF) to Mayor Ed Murray on Monday. "Although we heard support for the concept of connecting our residents to workforce training opportunities, there were many questions and concerns about the availability of living wage jobs for low-income people."

SHA had intended to send the proposal, called "Stepping Forward," to its board of commissioners for a vote by the end of this year or early next. But the mayor and much of the City Council opposed the proposal, and a series of strong protests accompanied the housing agency's hearings on the plan throughout the fall. Lofton said the housing agency is unlikely to initiate any changes in rent policy until 2016.

"It's an incredible victory for the tenant movement," said Lynn Sereda, who is disabled and has received an SHA subsidy for over ten years. (She's also on the board of the Tenants Union, which organized a campaign against the proposal.)

Sereda said the East African community, in particular, had been at the forefront of protests aimed at stopping Stepping Forward. "I'm elated," she continued. "I really felt all along that we would achieve our goals in this campaign."