Protests from Seattle Housing Authority tenants' have caused the agency to rethink changes in rent policy.
SEATTLE - The Seattle Housing Authority has backed off from a plan it thought would bring hope to more families. Some very verbal opponents though thought it would lead to more homelessness.
In a letter to Mayor Ed Murray, SHA Executive Director Andrew Lofton explained how he and his staff have decided to put the Stepping Forward proposal on hold given feedback.
"What we perceived beneath the objections was fear among many that they would be unable to raise their incomes enough to remain in their housing," Lofton wrote. "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." (AKA hell no you can't train us for work and then raise our rents! You just pay our rents and keep your training.)
For supporters the plan seemed like a pathway to more independence: an effort to provide life skills training including work skills. As SHA provided that help, tenants would eventually pay more in rent, allowing the difference in money to go to more families who need it.
The tenants union though said the policy would wind up raising rents by more than 400 percent and protests followed.
"Tenants have made their position clear that no policy that decouples rent from income will be acceptable and that tenants need to be included at the outset of any rent policy proposal," said Jonathan Grant, Executive Director of the Tenants Union of Washington.
Fadumo Isaq, who came to Seattle as an Ethiopian refugee, said she and many of her friends could never reach the expectations SHA was considering.
"It scared us too much," she said. "We have many people –we don't speak perfect English. We didn't graduate here. If you're working a small job, maybe you have 2 kids or 3 kids, how are you going to pay 80 percent rent? You can't just sleep in the street with the kids. That's why we were fighting."
Lofton said in his letter to the mayor that their efforts to develop a rent policy proposal will likely take at least a year.
So to reiterate . . . Emigrated from Ethiopia, doesn't speak English, has 2 or 3 kids, not interested in work training if it will lead to higher rent.
All right folks, you tell me, what's the answer?
A family grabs their multiple kids, goes to a country where they don't speak the language, crashes in government subsidized housing, and refuses work training because it would come paired with the expectation that they work to provide income for their family resulting in less subsidies for their rent.
How do you fix that, or is that working as intended?