Guest Editorial: I'm Fighting the Seattle Housing Authority Rent Hikes. You Should, Too.

Comments

1
I find it very hard to feel sympathetic for SHA tenants, after repeatedly being denied for SHA housing when I desperately needed it. Because I hadn't been evicted yet. I went through that period of my life paying 90% of my income for my share of the rent in the cheapest, shittiest apartment me & my roommates could find, living on spaghetti and mac & cheese, unpaid bills languishing and destroying my credit.

Count yourself lucky. At least you got in.

I'll start caring once SHA expands to fit ALL the residents who actually need their help.
2
"I didn't get mine, so fuck you"
3
The Seattle Housing Authority has finite funding, finite resources, and a huge tenant backlog - per Seattle Times, in 2013, they had 24,000 applicants for 2,000 housing vouchers. Every single dollar that's spent keeping current tenants at their absurdly low rent keeps a dollar from one of those 22,000 applicants for getting housing. This is exactly a one-for-one trade. If I'm faced between a new tenant that only needs housing for a short period and will work during that time to bring themselves out of public housing and a current tenant that's been in public housing for an average of eight years without work (per the SHA for Stepping Forward), my choice is clear. I don't know why this isn't obvious, and I don't know why it hasn't already been done.

Also, I pay market rent and my home has cheap linoleum floors and requires a few repairs. Welcome to the club.
4
The mayor opposes SHA's proposal too. He's offered to have City offices help SHA craft a fairer way. And there will be two further hearings after tonight. http://realchangenews.org/index.php/site…

@1, that's some interesting logic.
5
Jesus, the lack of empathy in some of the comments here is staggering. I suppose some of these commentators plan to pull up sofas next to these SHA housing recepients on eviction day, bags of popcorn in hand, ready to jeer at the newly homeless families. Perhaps they will also suckle tears from the faces of the newly homeless children?

I appreciate that the budgets are tight, that not everyone who needs SHA housing gets it, and that living in Seattle as a working class person is rapidly becoming impossible. It is for exactly these reasons that we should be focused on the real problem: a social order that regards things like stable housing as luxuries to be earned rather than rights to be demanded.
6
All this is going to do is, once again, push more poor people out of the city. This is not the solution we are looking for.
7
"a hand up, not a hand out". i'm torn.

SHA housing is not intended as a permanent solution for every tenant. @1 has a point in that many people are in dire straits - the wait list is thousands long in out-on-the-periphery Clallam County as well. but $ to provide more isn't coming from any government, local or federal, as long as republicans have a shred of power.

SHA will probably dial this program back, but the status quo is untenable. it has to change.
8
Because welfare for able bodied people should be forever!
9
#1

The bums will always lose. Do you hear me Lebowski?!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5epuPMf…
10
@5: I assume you're referring to @1 & @3. @3 doesn't seem particularly unempathetic, just dispassionate. @1 is resentful that the SHA had to way to help them when they needed it.

head on over to the Seattle Times comment section if you want to see what a lack of empathy looks like.

11
Anything more that can be done beyond signing a petition and showing up to a rally? Who should we be writing letters to? What meetings should people attend to let the deciders hear from the community?
12
There are already many transitional housing programs, by definition a temporary solution, SHA's proposal would take another 4,600 units of truly affordable housing off the market by essentially making them transitional housing as well. This doesn't help anyone on the wait list since they too would get booted from their homes once their rent gets raised. This is a bogus policy that mirrors the "welfare to work" reforms of the '90s that failed to move people out of poverty too. This systems sets people up to fail.
13
SHA policy has been a trap for their residents for years and years. It sets up people to have low expectations to transcend their current reality. Frankly, I think public housing ought to be limited to those with disabilities and the elderly. And perhaps for families with children that have severe disabilities. But having a policy that essentially says, "Here's your low income housing. We don't expect you to move or try to increase your skills and income or show your children to aspire beyond the public housing environment." sets up residents to have no sense of self-efficacy.

And I know this for fact. After a career in social services, it isn't just housing but most all social programs have a message of low expectations that traps people in cycles that do not promote growth or self-direction. The writer of this essay may have had a hard time with DV and raising two special needs (not sure exactly what kind of special needs) on her own. But neither of these two circumstances mean that she is unable to pursue a living wage job. She clearly has resources, eg. educated parent, higher education degree, that afford her privelliedges that many others don't have. It would be a better use of time for the TU and their advocates to work towards establishing more creative approaches to affordable housing that isn't public housing, such as co-op models that allow for renters to build equity and eventually ownership of their apartments. That kind of programming puts the onus on the renter to participate in maintaining their housing and working towards the kind of financial health that will push her children out of poverty in the long run. Keeping the status quo of current SHA policy tells her, "No need to try to do more as your rent will never be more than 30% of your income." Why should she want this to change? It doesn't hold her accountable to doing and being more.
14
@13

Exactly. We're a sufficiently wealth country that those who simply cannot care for themselves should never starve or go homeless. But for able bodied and minded citizens such help should always be temporary and always linked to a plan for their future that doesn't require that help.

As always though the devil is in the details. What is able bodied? What does temporary mean? A year? Ten?

At the least all government assistance programs should have clearly defined what problem they're'solving', clearly defined goals as to what constitutes a solution and flat budget to meet those goals within a timeline. A timeline that may never exceed some statutory limit. And if they don't meet those goals on that budget within that timeline the program should automatically terminate so that a worthwhile program may replace it. Those responsible for creating, implementation and administration of the program should have to convincingly defend their poor performance to an unbiased (the GAO, for example, rather than their boss or other person interested in protecting them) board before being given that responsibility again with taxpayer money.
15
@7
And it shouldn't be a permanent solution for every tenant. I didn't need a permanent solution. Eventually, things got better for me - I now own a unit in a condo (or co-op apartment if you want to be trendy about it), and live reasonably comfortably. But the lack of help from SHA/DSHS during what I know think of as my "sharecropping years" set my entire life, my career, my education, and likely my retirement, back by 3 or 4 years.

The honest, heartfelt suggestions by my co-workers at the time on how to deal with the situation just made me angrier. "Get yourself evicted and couchsurf for a month", and "Get your girlfriend pregnant" were actual, functional methods recommended to me to shortcut the waiting lists and eligibility requirements. I was unwilling to do these things, so I lost years of my life where I was nothing but a minor income stream for my slumlord.

So all I needed was a short term solution. And in reality, all the vast majority of non-disabled people should need is a short term solution, because in the long term, the government should be fixing the root causes of the housing shortage and low-income wageslavery. But, until those root causes are fixed, SHA and organizations like them need to focus on expanding to accommodate the full population that needs them, not propping up their existing lucky few residents.
16
SHA is considering doing this during the worst affordability crisis the city has seen in years?!?! SHA shouldn't be kicking tenants out of their homes to make their numbers look better.The federal government, SHA, and the city have abandoned tenants, letting public housing and other low-income housing be demolished or redeveloped, and providing inadequate funding for subsidies. Something's got to change and we should all be taking to the streets to make sure this doesn't continue.

Rebecca, thank you for writing this article and helping us all understand what this all means to you. You're incredibly brave!
17
Oh Goody! Seattleblahs is here!
18
Join the Tenants' Union of Washington State . -- http://www.tenantsunion.org ( and see if you can sue your way to Utopia .)
19

@17
Yep. And unlike most I'm not making insane claims of a 'right' to live in a high rent district at the expense of taxpayers.

@16
What tenant right are you invoking, exactly? The right to have others pay your rent? Here's a tip- grownups have to make choices. If you choose not to have a career or saleable skills (and a college degree is no guarantee of a job, fyi) than you must accept the consequences. Like having to live in a low rent area, for example. Maybe think about how absurd it is to claim the right to have your choice of residential area subsidized by taxpayers for a bit?
20
@17

But to be fair you work for government. Tying money for budgets or salary to performance, competence or basic ability to do your job probably terrifies you.
21
@ 20, the chances that your own salary is tied to any of that (as opposed to your poker face while negotiating new contracts, your ability to exploit your workers to the maximum, giving as little in return, and squeezing your trnants because "that's the market now") are close to zero.
22
* tenants
23
@15

Gosh! You screwed up and have to live with it! Poor, poor boy!

That's how it works. Invested in 401k accounts (mostly paid for by your employer) and watched them drop in 2009? Yeah, that happens. And it may set back or curtail your retirement.

Bought a house and watched it lose value? Can I share a secret with you? That's nobodies problem but yours, and it does not alter the terms of your mortgage.

Decided that gender studies was a fantastic major, only to find there are surprisingly few 6 figure jobs paying for bs? Yeah, that's too bad, but if I were you I'd find a useful major or trade rather than moan about oppression and slavery and the 1%.

Have a great day, and good luck with growing up!
24
@ 23, you notice how this comment of yours has nothing to do with what @ 15 says? Just one more example of your inability to honestly debate the issues without the infantile need to pretend your opponents are saying things you've practised putting down. Your wife must be proud.
25
@20

At the end of the day I have to bring something of value to tenants, vendors or investors or there is no contract, no sale or job, and no revenue. And I've never advertised. At the moment I'm turning down work I have no time to do. If you do fair work or provide good product or rental homes at fair prices, it comes to you.

Or you could be a slack jawed moron with mo work ethic and become a government or union worker.
26
@ 25, something of value, sure, but I highly doubt it's worth what you're getting. Maybe you can prove me wrong (hint: that involves actual figures - you say you're busy but have all the time in the world for trolling Slog, so I bet you can look it up), but I don't believe you possess even the minimal honesty to do that.
27
I'm a film student and I will be there to document the Rally.
28
I'm a film student and I will be there to document the RALLY and the citizen outrage!
29
@23: The point he made was that for people who were in his position, a short-term solution can make a huge difference, helping people quickly become self-reliant, productive members of society. He's talking about the stuff that YOU YOURSELF advocated for in post #14! (And for the record, I'm right with you on what you said in that post. We as a society have no excuse for letting the unfortunate starve on the streets, and aid should be geared towards helping people better themselves. Teach a man to fish, et cetera.)
Lack Thereof talked about how the system was broken, how he'd have been able to get assistance more easily if he'd let himself become homeless or if he'd gotten his girlfriend pregnant before they could raise a kid, how people on the cusp were de facto encouraged to let themselves slide. That's the sort of policy we all agree needs to be repaired!
You didn't even read what he wrote in your eagerness to decry the imaginary liberal foolishness you spend so much time obsessing over.

@14: So if you believe we as a nation should provide aid to those in crisis and despondency so that they can become productive members of society, how do you reconcile that with your hatred for the government "robbing" you by using tax dollars to help feed and house those who can't provide for themselves? I'm serious. If we can't spend tax revenue on relief programs, how the hell are we supposed to help people get back on their feet?

@25: "At the moment I'm turning down work I have no time to do."
You seem to have plenty of time to spread your ignorance on SLOG. You know, when my boss offers me more hours, I take them, and I spend less time dicking around on the internet as a result. You feel me?
30
@29 completely off topic, I found this the other day thought you might be interested given a comment you made in another thread.

http://www.chicagoscots.org/feastofhaggi…
31
@25: "A slack jawed moron with mo [sic] work ethic and become a government or union worker."

More contempt for people who go to work everyday to make a living, I see.

I am fascinated how you can discern someone's moral character and intelligence based solely on who signs their paycheque. Teacher or janitor at a private school? Stalwart salt-of-the-earth working man. Teacher or janitor at a public school? Lazy leech on the public teat. It's absurd on its face.
32
Oh fiddle-dee-dee, Seattleblahs, how you do prattle on.

You realize that the power you are using to type your little missives on the internet come from union workers, most of whom are also government workers, don't you?

33
What the fuck is the point of low income housing if it doesn't serve people with low incomes?

If SHA wants to start offering additional units that are more geared toward lower-middle-class working people, more power to them, but putting hapless poor people in the position of losing their housing after x number of years is not a solution. That sort of policy is more expensive in the long term. Someone who can't get their shit together in six years isn't suddenly going to become self-sufficient once they're back on the street.
34
As someone who lives next to 6 SHA units - I have NO sympathy for the tenants anymore. I have watched as these people throw litter all over their yards (which then ends up in MY yard) , watched as their kids climb over my fence and mess around in my yard, Had to close my windows in the summer because they smoke directly underneath them, watched as the cops and paramedics show up to take care of an overly-drunk resident. I've watched them upgrade the rims on their Escalade and GMC Denali. I've been threatened with violence when I've asked the to smoke somewhere else, get their kids out of my yard, etc. I now complain directly to the SHA, who often doesn't even respond, let alone actually DO anything about it - I've been told that their hands are tied. Granted, it is really just 1 or 2 families of the 6 that are causing the problems, but until the SHA starts getting rid of bad apples like these, I just can't feel any sympathy for any of them.
35
@33: The question is how does SHA best allocate its limited resources? Does it fully subsidize in perpetuity a very small portion of the population in need? Or does it try to identify those it is currently serving who may have the wherewithal, with assistance, to pay more rent and thereby enable SHA to serve a greater population (including those who, with limited assistance, could turn their lives around--similar to microlending)? It's possible to quibble with the details in the proposal, but I don't see how the current policy is obviously preferable. Do you?
36
Sorry this is happening to you, Rebecca Landa. Similar thing happened to me in early 2013 when my rent in Capital Hill Housing apt doubled and I had to move out of the city.

It's been said before on Slog: RENT CONTROL, RENT CONTROL, RENT CONTROL.

The landlords and "non-profits" will squeeze people for every fucking dime they can get until there's rent control.
37
You're 40 years old, a native English speaker with a college degree, able-bodied, and you've been paying less than $250 a month for rent for the past nine years (you said your rent would quadruple, and the Seattle Times article said the rent would be $850 for a two-bedroom apartment six years from now). Your children (assuming they were toddlers when you moved in nine years ago) will be in their late teens, if not adults, when your rent rises to $850 per month. Is there no hope whatsoever that in a city that has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, in the next six years you could find some kind of productive employment? I understand that times are tough and your situation is difficult, but given the lengthy list of destitute and disabled people who need housing, are you the person in Seattle who needs deeply subsidized housing more than the thousands who are on the waiting list? Is it unreasonable to think that you would be making minimum wage ($15/hour, or $30,000/year) six years from now, which would make $850/month about 30% of your income?
38
@34

Right. Because non SHA/section 8 Seattle renters dont throw their trash/cigarette butts everywhere, dont leave beer cans on the sidewalk after their impromptu 'hipster get togethers', dont pick up after their dogs.

Also, lets all narrow down what WE think poor people should compose themselves as....you know, because they are poor they DESERVE to look and act poor. They are the hated of society, they shouldnt have ANYTHING to take pride in and should not be allowed any human leisurely possessions!

Fuck those stupid poors and fuck anyone who is poor but doesnt like to look poor! Hold the poor to a higher standard than we hold the rich and even the asshat, douchebag, privileged middle class of Seattle!

And I say that as someone who has lived next to non-SHA, middle class, privileged Seattlites!

That is all.
39
^ Should be "always pick up after their dogs". Im sure the sarcasm and intent was conveyed though.
40
Yo yo, welfare 4 life.
41
@38 - I never said that middle-class hipster types are not just as annoying, that is a whole separate issue.

If you are going to get assistance from your community, you should, if not try to make your community better, at least not make it WORSE.

My chief complaint is that they seem to have no way of getting rid of people who cause problems. If they have 22,000 applicants (most of whom would probably never dump trash in their yards), they should have the ability to evict people causing problems, so those people who genuinely need housing and can clean up after themselves can get it.

Also, do you really think that it is OK for people living in SHA housing to drop easily 2K or more on new 20" rims for their fairly new vehicles when people like @1, who truly needed SHA help, are left to fend for themselves? You have no problem with that at all? Really? You don't mind that your tax dollars are being used this way? I'm arguing that SHA help those who actually need it, not that all poor people be forced to wear burlap sacks.
42
If you're going to complain about housing prices in Seattle, maybe you should stop letting people use Apodments to artificially increase rental prices and do something about the overinflated property values in the city.
Don't just complain. Stop that which is causing the issue.
43
Why are our politicians letting in immigrants that need to be on public assistance, when we can't even fund our schools. As since when is low income housing set up for multiple generations. We as a society, have done a disservice to the native Americans, African Americans and now we are trying to create reservations for the Muslim population. Drive through Yesler Terrace and look around. Come on where is the common sense? Let the people move forward and become independent and responsible and quite trying to buy votes.
44
@43

When all else goes wrong, blame [immigrants/the poor/brown people/black people/gay people]?

My god, Seattles yuppy culture is eating itself.
45
@41

They get assistance from the federal government, not 'the community'. WA, and especially Seattle, has one of the most regressive, anti--poor tax systems in America.

Your argument boils down to holding poor people to a higher standard than everyone else, simply because they are poor. Some poor schmos working 50 hours a week at wal mart or mcdonalds, lets give them even more shit because they have to take out aid to survive in one of the most expensive fucking cities without a decent safety net in America (Seattle).