Debate over the affordable housing crisis in Seattle is dominating the City Council elections. Seattle tops the charts for new apartments built, and over 90% are “luxury” units. Rents are up 69% since 2010. With nearly 50% of Seattle-area renters cost-burdened (paying over 30% of their income on rent), no wonder Seattle also tops the national charts for homelessness per-capita.
To address the crisis, most Seattle politicians limit their proposals to incremental spending increases, alongside regulatory and zoning changes which still rely on private development. While we support every step forward, this is a failed strategy based on accepting the dominance of real estate speculators, corporate developers, and big landlords.
In contrast, Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative argue that private development – where decisions are made to maximize profits – is incapable of meeting the basic housing needs of working people. Instead, socialists fight for the following program:
- Universal Rent Control
- Cap rent increases in Seattle to the rate of inflation. No loopholes for new construction, vacated units, or other carve-outs demanded by the landlord lobby.
- End Homelessness
- An immediate expansion of safe and dignified shelters, alongside tiny home villages and other transitional options. Full funding for mental health and addiction treatment. Stop the sweeps and criminalization of homelessness!
- A Movement to Tax Big Business
- None of this will be possible unless we build a mass movement of working people, renters, and marginalized communities. As a first step, we need to demand big tax increases on Amazon and big business, not working people, to secure the funds needed at the city, state, and federal level.
- Massive Expansion of Social Housing
- Build tens of thousands of new publicly-owned, permanently affordable homes to meet the needs of our growing city, linked to an overall Green New Deal for Seattle. Create thousands of union jobs building beautiful, sustainable, walkable communities alongside free public transit options to reliably meet all work, school, shopping, and childcare needs.
- Democratic Planning
- Housing policy and urban development as a whole should be organized according to a democratic plan and based on public ownership to ensure affordable, stable, quality housing as a basic right for all. This vision is possible if linked to a wider socialist transformation of society, where the resources now hoarded by the wealthy are used to meet the needs of all.