Housing Justice Movie Night

The Capitol Hill Renter Initiative is excited to be partnering with Latino LGBTQ nonprofit Entre Hermanos for a Housing Justice Movie Night to raise awareness for diverse affordable housing options in Seattle. The team is also proud to have a growing list of co-sponsors signed on including Futurewise, CASA Latina, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, LGBTQ Allyship, and Sierra Club Washington State Chapter! Representatives from each of these organizations will be in attendance to share what they are working on and how renters can get involved.

This movie night will feature the 2006 award-winning drama Quinceañera. The film’s story line centers around a young Latina teenager, growing up in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, who finds herself pregnant and kicked out of her home before her 15th birthday, forcing her to move in with her great grand uncle. She is joined by her cousin who has been kicked out of his house for coming out as gay. Under the roof of a small backyard cottage, they each face their own challenges and find support in one another. Through these personal stories Quinceañera tackles issues of affordability, gentrification, and tenants’ rights, all major challenges facing Seattle today.

This event was created in response to the recent decision by the Seattle hearing examiner to indefinitely delay an ordinance that would make it easier for homeowners to build backyard cottages (legally called Detached Accessory Dwelling Units or DADUs) like the home the main characters share in the movie. The hearing examiner decision came after a legal challenge by the Queen Anne Community Council, a neighborhood group that hired attorneys in order to delay these low cost housing options from coming to their neighborhood.

After the film, representatives from each organization will lead a discussion on the how renters can address the issues highlighted in Quinceañera including how to take action on backyard cottages and other housing justice campaigns!

The event will be held on Wednesday, February 8th at 7pm at Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave). There is suggested donation of $3 to help cover costs. However, this is a free event and everyone (ages 18+) are welcome.

“Buy” your free ticket to reserve a seat here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/e/2834116 or RSVP on the Facebook event page here

Where will the new Convention Center workers live? Behind the numbers.

As our region booms, we are adding far more jobs than housing units. From 2010 to 2015, Seattle added 49 jobs, but only 12 homes per day.

Our city and region is particularly behind on providing housing for people who make 50% of the median income or less, people like hotel desk clerks who average $12.32 per hour. The Washington State Convention Center projects that their new expansion will create 2,300 jobs in the hospitality industry downtown. As our country continues to climb out of the Great Recession, we need more jobs.

Unfortunately, many of these jobs will not pay enough to afford low wage workers the opportunity to live in Seattle. When these workers and their families cannot afford housing near work, they are forced to endure long commutes, commutes that add to traffic congestion, hurt our environment, and take away time from family and community. Luckily, the Convention Center can do something about this by providing affordable housing as a public benefit.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for our region, and on similar findings for recent downtown Seattle hotel projects, we expect that 60% of the jobs created by the Convention Center expansion will make less than 50% of area median income (AMI). Thanks to the income of other family members, only half of the workers making 50% of AMI or less live in households that fall below 50%. We assume that some of these workers will have a roommate, partner or children, with an average household size of 1.33 people.

This combination of figures leads us to a simple equation for calculating the need for affordable housing (50% of AMI) created by the expansion:

2,300 × 0.6 × 0.5 / 1.33 = 519 affordable homes needed

It costs about $110,000 in local subsidy to create one home that will remain affordable for at least 50 years. So, 519 homes multiplied by $110,000 results in about $57 million in needed funding.

WSCC Addition

 

Capitol Hill Arts District: An answer to Displacement?

Capitol Hill Arts District: An answer to Displacement?

Photo:  OneReel Execuitve Director Chris Weber shares his feelings at the closing parting for V2, a temporary arts space on Capitol Hill (December 8,2016)

When neighborhood community groups and artists started the Capitol Hill Arts District, we thought of it as a tool to promote the arts on Capitol Hill and strengthen an arts ecosystem which has organically formed on Pike and Pine.

The last two years have shown that we are really working on an anti-displacement strategy.   In a neighborhood where so many arts organizations rent, their future on the hill is only as secure as the number of years (or months) left on their lease.

How do we keep the soul of the neighborhood when so many businesses and buildings are changing and space for the arts is becoming unaffordable?  The solution needs to be large investments to create new space and safely preserve what we already have.

A recent (albeit small) survey showed alignment about the greatest need.  The top three priorities named by artists: affordable homes, affordable studio space, and racial equity.

As rents continue to rise in Seattle, artists are more dependent than ever on older buildings. Often, the older buildings in the neighborhood are more affordable, and so it’s no surprise that they are homes to most Capitol Hill arts organizations.  Most of these are well loved homes, with character and rawness newer buildings have trouble matching.

The Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland demonstrates the risk in relying on under resourced spaces for the arts. Make no mistake: it’s rising rents that led to the Ghost Ship fire.  Artists without an affordable place to live or work are often driven underground, and into unregulated dangerous spaces.

The response to the tragedy of 36 lives lost in Oakland cannot be a witch hunt to close down arts spaces not in compliance with every regulation.   Thankfully, the city has already shown strong leadership in a more collaborative solution, one that works with artists. “I am born and raised in Oakland,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf. “I can’t tell you what a personal commitment I have to preserving and lifting up that unique and creative energy that makes Oakland, Oakland.”

Though in the works well before the fire, this week’s announcement about deeper investments in Oakland arts spaces is a model response that Seattle should consider.  The City of Oakland is working with local funders to create long-term solutions for affordable art space.  Seattle would be wise to further invest in anti-displacement and public safety initiatives in the arts.  Be they shiny new concert halls, or old warehouses, spaces that have city investments and proper funding are going to be safer, more secure homes for artists and audiences.

Build More Homes. House More People.

Build More Homes. House More People.

In case you’ve missed it, plans are underway to redevelop the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC). This billion dollar project, dubbed the “Addition,” will double the capacity of the existing convention center and is expected to begin construction in 2017.

Before that happens, the Addition is assembling a package of community benefits that will go along with the project. Why are public benefits on the table?  As part of the project, they are requesting the city vacate three alleys and underground portions of Olive Way and Terry Avenue. In exchange,  the developer has agreed to pay for these rights of way and also provide a package of public benefits.

Next Wednesday, December 7th, WSCC Addition is hosting an open house to present and get feedback on different community benefit concepts. Our friends from the Lid I-5 campaign will be advocating for a feasibility study to figure out where lidding I-5 is most reasonable citywide, what the new land should be used for, and how the freeway can be improved for commuters and neighbors alike.

We’ll be there to make sure that affordable housing is part of the conversation. Check out the graphic below to understand what’s at stake and how the WSCC addition can help us build more affordable homes and house more people.

Make sure to show up on Wednesday to make your voice heard. You can RSVP to the event on Facebook. WSCC has also circulated an online survey where you can vote on which concept you will like to see.

WSCC Public Benefits Open House

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

5-7 p.m.

WSCC, (705 Pike St, Seattle, WA) Room 2AB

 

Victor Obeso Answers Your Burning Metro Questions

A big thanks to Victor Obeso, King County Metro Deputy General Manager, for being the first of our Renter Summit panelists to provide a response to questions we didn’t get to during the panel discussion.  We look forward to receiving similar responses from Councilmembers Sawant and Johnson, Speaker Chopp, and Senator Pedersen.  Below, we’ve included his response to the questions you submitted. 

Victor-Obeso

Deputy General Manager of Planning and Customer Services for King County Metro Transit

I enjoyed attending the Renter’s Summit held on September 24.  It is energizing for me to attend events like this where so many attendees care so deeply about public transit.  Many transit related questions were posed at the event, and I’m happy to provide the responses below.

(1) What can we do to increase late night transit?

Metro is considering a proposal to improve late night “Night Owl” bus service, which includes service in the Capitol Hill area. Metro conducted public outreach last spring and is currently in the second phase of outreach through the end of October gathering feedback on service concepts. Late night ridership is low compared to other times of day, so the investments in this time period that Metro is proposing are relatively modest, but would represent a significant step toward providing viable 24/7 service. Metro is working closely with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) on late night transit and the City of Seattle is helping fund the proposed additional service.  You can find more details online.

(2) How can we make transit more accessible to kids and families?

Improving transit accessibility for kids and families includes making transit more available at all times of the day and week and making transit safer and more secure. Metro has increased frequency of service at all times of day through investments including those funded by the city of Seattle Proposition 1. These types of improvements make transit more accessible for families and all other people who travel outside of the standard work commute hours.

It is also notable that all new coaches are configured with low floors, which makes getting on and off the bus much easier with small children. Metro also continues to improve bus stops, with shelters, lighting, benches, and other amenities that make using transit easier for parents and more fun for kids.

For more information on how to travel with kids on Metro, click here. See questions 3 and 4 for more information.

(3) How are we incorporating safety for vulnerable populations in plans to expand transit?

The County Executive’s 2017-18 budget proposal for Metro takes major steps to improve safety and security and to better meet the needs of the diversity of Metro riders and employees. At Metro’s request, the budget proposes funds to add seven Metro Transit Police officers, one detective, and one transit resource officer, and also to conduct anti-bias and de-escalation training for all Metro Transit Police and other King County Sheriff’s Office officers.

The 2017-18 budget also includes funding to establish an effective and efficient system‐wide approach to identify and address employment equity and diversity concerns and incorporate diversity and inclusion principles throughout Metro. We want the workforce at Metro, at all levels, to reflect the diversity of the communities and customers we serve.

Finally, the budget requests to convert a term-limited position to an ongoing position to continue supporting Metro’s efforts in ensure compliance with Americans with Disability Act requirements of Metro’s programs, facilities, and fleet.

(4) How can we make Metro friendlier, less expensive and easier to use for families, especially single mothers with children?

All new Metro buses have a low-floor design, “kneeling” capabilities that allow the driver to lower the entry door several inches, a mobility ramp rather than the old style, relatively cumbersome wheelchair lift, and seating layouts that are more open, improving accessibility and ease of movement.

Capitol Hill has a large number of bus shelters that provide protection from the rain, are well lit, and improve accessibility to Metro routes. Metro also has a bus shelter mural program that improves the appearance of bus shelters and deters graffiti.

People with a household income of less than double the federal poverty level (FPL) qualify for ORCA LIFT – a reduced fare program that makes transit trips less expensive for qualifying residents within the Puget Sound region. About 35,000 people within the Puget Sound area already use ORCA LIFT, which was introduced in 2015.

(5) Can we make transit passes free or low cost for all people, especially workers and students?

If Metro was to make transit passes free, it would come at a great cost in service. Of the total revenue Metro receives from fare collection, about half of it is paid by the over 2,000 employers getting ORCA cards to over 350,000 employees throughout the region. Over 30 percent of Metro’s operating costs are covered by fares. Without fare revenue, Metro would have to reduce bus service by about one-third.

Metro’s fare program has a number of elements designed to make transit more affordable for low-income riders. For many years, Metro has had reduced fares for youth, seniors and riders with disabilities. In 2015 Metro, working in partnership with Seattle-King County Public Health, implemented the ORCA LIFT program to provide discounted fares for low-income adult riders (at or below 200 percent of the FPL). There are currently about 35,000 riders registered for the ORCA LIFT program, who made over 430,000 trips on Metro and 110,000 trips on Sound Transit bus, Link light rail, and Sounder services in August. Metro is also working with the City of Seattle to provide free ORCA cards to low-income Seattle Public Schools students.

Metro also provides an 80 percent discount on tickets sold to human services agencies to provide to their very low income clients. Metro sold about 1.4 million tickets through this program in 2015. The King County Council recently increased the annual subsidy cap by 25 percent, to $3.2 million, effective in 2016. The King County Council also acknowledges the importance of fare revenue and sets targets for Metro to use fares to recover a portion of the cost of delivering service.

(6) How much money are we spending on fare collecting and enforcement? Could we better use these funds for transit access and affordability?

It costs Metro approximately $10 million to collect $158 million, or costs roughly equal to six percent of the fares collected. The largest element of this cost is related to the ongoing collection of cash on the bus. The net revenues gained by collecting fare are used to fund over 30 percent of Metro’s service. Metro would need to cut bus service by about one third if fare revenue was removed. Additionally, fare enforcement on the six RapidRide lines currently costs a total of about $1.5M per year. Fare enforcement on RapidRide is required for provision of off-board fare payment, which is a central element of bus rapid transit. Fare enforcement has the added benefit of improving security for all riders, as reflected in several RapidRide line customer and bus operator surveys over the past several years.  Overall, RapidRide ridership on the A through F lines have attracted 67% more riders on these lines, over 25,000 riders per day, compared to the former regular Metro routes they replaced.  The fares paid by these added riders is part of the reason Metro has been financially able to sustain and add more service over the past several years. See also the prior responses describing some of the ways Metro provides access to and affordability of our services.

(7) How is King County Metro/Sound Transit working with the City of Seattle and WSDOT to get transit priority improvements on the street?

King County Metro has a long history of working with the City of Seattle and WSDOT to keep transit moving through the most congested parts of the county. This ranges from establishing the 3rd Avenue transit lanes and Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes throughout Seattle, to the HOV lanes on our highways, in particular I-5, I-90, SR-99 and the West Seattle Bridge. However, Metro does recognize that with growing traffic congestion and allocation of increasing amounts of street space to improved pedestrian and bicycle safety, much more transit priority is needed.

With the development of the Metro Connects long range plan, Metro and the City of Seattle have a shared vision of prioritizing reliable, frequent transit across the City of Seattle, including adding as many as 7 new Rapid Ride lines in Seattle by 2025 with bus-only lanes on up to 50 percent of the lane miles, reducing travel time by a target average of 20 percent.

(8) How can we better involve women and minority owned contractors in transit development?

King County Metro has multiple efforts underway that are related to the County’s Equity and Social Justice Initiative.

King County’s Business Development and Contract Compliance (BDCC) is a section within the Finance and Business Operations Division. BDCC’s business development goal is to retain, expand, create and recruit businesses and BDCC manages programs aimed at increasing the participation of small and disadvantaged businesses in County programs and projects.

Towards these ends, BDCC manages specific Business Development initiatives and partnerships inspired by the County Executive and County Council, including the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. The program purpose is to ensure that DBEs have an equal opportunity to participate in USDOT assisted contracts. This applies to King County projects that have an element of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding, loans, or grants.

King County encourages participation by all firms wishing to participate in County contracting opportunities. Firms seeking to be certified as DBE should contact the Washington Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises at 866-208-1064 or http://omwbe.wa.gov/contact-us/.

(9) Where does the money from zoned [RPZ] parking go?

To best answer this question, we recommend contacting Mike Estey, SDOT Parking Manager, at 206-684-8132 or via email at Mike.Estey@seattle.gov.

(10) Why are we not moving forward with a parking benefit district?

To best answer this question, we recommend contacting Mike Estey with SDOT at 206-684-8132 or via email at Mike.Estey@seattle.gov.

(11) There have been 2 bike fatalities this week. How can we accelerate the creation of protected bike lanes?

To best answer this question, we recommend contacting Jim Curtin with the SDOT safety program at 206-684-8874 or via email at Jim.Curtin@seattle.gov.

(12) How do we improve last-leg connections for those who don’t live directly near the main transit lines?

Nearly all Capitol Hill transit trips start and end with walking, so improving pedestrian connections that work for all ages and abilities is the most vital element of improving access to transit for last-leg or last-mile connections. Improving pedestrian connections to bus stops can include a variety of projects such as building sidewalk and bike infrastructure, providing wayfinding so people can easily find transit stops and stations, and ensuring that people have good information about the variety of transportation options available.

Also, nearly all Capitol Hill residents live less than one quarter mile (1,320 feet) from frequent Metro service that runs every 15 minutes or better most of the time, but we recognize that geographic and other barriers exist for some riders and we do work with SDOT to address those issues as completely as possible through improvements to sidewalk infrastructure. Metro Connects envisions expanded partnerships between Metro and cities throughout King County to improve connections and allow more people to easily access the transit system.

Thank you for advocating for better transit in your community and for asking important questions. If you have further inquiries or comments, please feel free to contact me at 206-477-5778 or via email at victor.obeso@kingcounty.gov

 

 

A Poem from Michelle Penaloza

The following poem was shared by Michelle Peñaloza at the #RenterSummit. It’s published here with her permission.

 

michelle penaloza

WE WALK A HEART AROUND LAKE UNION

by Michelle Peñaloza

and you point to buildings and streets
that bear the scars around your own:
the elementary school that taught you
difference and its consequences; the law
firm where twenty-five years later your daily
prayer and hijab reinforced the lesson.
There, the bus stop where you last saw
your brother, out of his mind and out of your
reach, his mouth an open sore.
We’ve talked many times before about
what it means to be noticed, to be
threatening and invisible at the same time.
In this way, we are sisters. We stay close,
two brown women walking together.
This city’s always been very segregated
and it’s true that when you walk north
the prices rise and the faces pale.
We touch the Scotch broom and lilacs
erupted in spring, notice the renegade ferns
growing upon the stumps of old docks.
All along the water’s edge, we note the glorious blue
made bluer by the hulls of gleaming white boats;
upon a hillside suffuse in green, amid artifacts of rust,
people fly kites, edging out over the skyline.
On your left! Bikers zoom past us, their spandex,
the shine of their helmets, rejoicing.
It’s true that people here are different
when exposed to the sun; they crowd
the sidewalks with strollers and wagging dogs.
Sunglasses, then. Smiles and hellos.
We pass condo after condo, clustered houseboats,
marinas of artisan sailboats, luxury yachts.
Who are these people, we ask, looking in.
All day you’ve spoken the landscape of your life
as we walk among places that no longer exist —
neighborhoods reconceptualized and fenced off.
This city does not want me.
What do we do when the ground we claim
as home changes beneath our feet?
Landscape, layered. You can look back,
remember the stories beneath all this shine.
We part ways upon a freshly paved greenspace.
In the shadow of History and Industry, people
play bocce on gravel among orange café seating.
Beneath an awning along the water,
a man carves a canoe from salvaged cedar.

 

From landscape / heartbreak

Republished in The Seattle Review of Books

 

Questions asked by Building Ambassadors at the #RenterSummit

questions at SummitAt yesterday’s Renter Summit, small groups were asked to prepare questions for the civic leaders on the afternoon Q&A panel. Serving on the panel were House Speaker Frank Chopp, 43rd District Senator Jamie Pedersen, King County Metro Deputy General Manager Victor Obeso, Seattle District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and Seattle District 4 Councilmember Rob Johnson.

Here are the questions renters submitted:

ON RENTER EMPOWERMENT

Councilmembers Johnson and Sawant: do you support the creation of a City-wide Renter’s Commission?

ON MOBILITY

  1. What can we do to increase late night transit?
  2. How can we make transit more accessible to kids and families?
  3. How are we incorporating safety for vulnerable populations in plans to expand transit?
  4. Why are we not moving forward with a parking benefit district?
  5. How do we improve last-leg connections for those who don’t live directly near the main transit lines?
  6. Can we make transit passes free or low cost for all people, especially workers and students?
  7. How can we make Metro friendlier, less expensive and easier to use for families, especially single mothers with children?
  8. Where does the money from zoned [RPZ] parking go?
  9. How can we better involve women and minority owned contractors in transit development?
  10. How is King County Metro/Sound Transit working with the City of Seattle and WSDOT to get transit priority improvements on the street?
  11. What are we waiting on to get buses out of traffic?
  12. There have been 2 bike fatalities this week. How can we accelerate the creation of protected bike lanes?*
  13. How much money are we spending on fare collecting and enforcement? Could we better use these funds for transit access and affordability?*

Q&AON AFFORDABILITY

  1. What is the top priority in Olympia for moving HALA forward? Does Frank Chopp support the MHA-R program in HALA?
  2. Why do we have zoning that limits building heights and requires parking?
  3. Can we consider a vacancy tax to disincentivize sitting on overpriced or investment rental units?
  4. Why are urban villages being forced to absorb all of the City’s growth?
  5. When can we talk about the dominance of single family housing in Seattle again?
  6. How can we incentivize the development of unused land?
  7. What does the City do to protect renters from retaliation by landlords?
  8. How can we increase accountability for landlords re: ethics and standards?
  9. Are there non-subsidized solutions?
  10. When are you going to be brave and bold enough to give inter-sexed people the safe affordable house we deserve?
  11. Can the Council implement a capital gains tax that eliminates property speculation?
  12. What are the plans to curb economic displacement due to transit oriented development in Seattle?
  13. What happens when a tenant no longer qualifies for the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) Program? What is tenant to do in regards to rent payment?
  14. What’s being done to prevent landlords from requiring applicants to have incomes 3x the rent?
  15. Is there a way for renters to apply to new housing before it’s built?
  16. What new forms of public revenue can be made to build more affordable housing quickly? (e.g. land tax, foreign investment tax, parking tax)*
  17. How can we cap/change the laws around rent increases with lease renewals?*
  18. Frank Chopp: We feel a preservation tax exemption would be great for affordability. What would it take to get your support?*

*Question asked of the panel at the #RenterSummit.

Little Collective Creates Whimsical Stormwater Parklet for Park(ing) Day

IMG_1510Whimsical stormwater sounds like a contradiction in terms – but somehow this past weekend it was a reality, thanks to Park(ing) Day Plus+ and the imaginations of four environmentally-minded landscape designers. Extended to a two-day affair in Seattle this year, Park(ing) Day is an international event that temporarily reclaims street parking areas for pop-up “parklets” in the name of creative placemaking, community health and urban design.

The Little Collective’s modular mobile rain garden camped for two days in the street parking area in front of the 12th Avenue Arts building on Capitol Hill. The garden consists of a series of raised boxes, filled with compost and plants, through which simulated “rainwater” flows (generated by pedaling on a stationary bicycle!). The water is then cleaned as it passes through the biofilter base layer of the garden. Moreover, the plant life of the rain garden offers upstream habitat to important pollinators like bees.

Talks at the parklet site about local stormwater projects clarified our rainwater problem. Christin Hilton of the Nature Conservancy explained that urban stormwater is the #1 polluter of the Puget Sound. When rain flows through the streets and into the storm drains, it draws hydrocarbons, sediment, trash, fecal coliform, heavy metals and other nasty stuff with it. This is bad news for downstream organisms like salmon. Regarding Seattle’s iconic rain, Christin observed: “What makes our city so beautiful and lush is also a problem for us because of all of our impermeable urban surfaces.”

IMG_1506Designer Hilary Ratliff explained that the modular rain garden is an interim intervention and a prototype. In the next phase of their mobile rain garden design, they want it to pick up storm water directly from the street, taking the garden a step beyond simulation and making it functional. The long-term goal would be to permanently integrate bioretention facilities into the streetscape. In the meantime, the modular version offers a means to raise awareness, educate, and above all, to dream. As Hilary put it: “Streets aren’t just for cars – they’re about possibility.”

The trick, then, is to ensure that creative placemaking isn’t something we relegate to one (or two) days a year. What kinds of permanent change might a mobile rain garden inspire? Or a streetside tool library, a tea party on the curb, a public board game station, or any other of the fifty pop-up parklets we saw at this year’s Park(ing) Day? These streets are your streets. How would you like to use them?

Capitol Hill Renters (and Homeowners) Are Like No Other

Seattle Times Renter Owner

Back in August, the Seattle Times created this nice little infographic comparing renters and homeowners in Seattle.  The big takeaways weren’t too surprising.  Overall, renters in Seattle make less money, have smaller households, and live in smaller places.  They are more likely to be young, more likely to be people of color, more likely to have moved recently, and less likely to own a car than Seattle homeowners.

But what about Capitol Hill, where 80% of residents are renters? We broke down the numbers, and the comparisons are fascinating.

 

Owning vs Renting Capitol Hill

          Data for Capitol Hill owners and renters from 2010-2014 ACS

Capitol Hill residents are slightly less wealthy than Seattle overall, and that’s true for both renters and homeowners.  The gap between owners and renters on Capitol Hill is still significant however; the median household income of a renter on Capitol Hill is about $57,000 less than that of someone who owns.

Capitol Hill is also much younger. That’s partly because we have lots of renters and renters trend younger citywide. Our renters are also younger than other Seattle renters; 60% of renters on Capitol Hill are under age 35. The same holds true for our homeowners – nearly twice as many are under 35 compared to Seattle homeowners at large.

When it comes to transit, the differences are stark. 43% of Capitol Hill renters do not own a car, well above the 29% of renters city-wide that forgo a vehicle. Both of those are still light years beyond the 4% of homeowners in Seattle who have given up their car. Living in a dense, transit-rich neighborhood seems to make the difference. 15% of homeowners on Capitol Hill don’t own a car.

We also move less often—a lot less often.  When you don’t breakdown households by tenure (renter/owner) it looks like people on Capitol Hill move a lot.  56% of renters moved into their unit in 2010 or later (but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re new to the neighborhood). Renters on Capitol Hill are actually far less likely to have moved recently than renters elsewhere. The same is true for homeowners on Capitol Hill.  Only 4% of Capitol Hill homeowners moved into their place in 2010 or later.

Capitol Hill homeowners have much smaller households sizes and smaller homes than their counterparts throughout the city (condos outnumber craftsman bungalows), dramatically closing the big differences between owners and renters we see at the city level. The racial gap is smaller as well.  Capitol Hill has similar racial demographics to Seattle as a whole.  Renters here are more white than renters elsewhere, and homeowners here are less white than homeowners elsewhere.

What does all of this mean for Capitol Hill? It’s an important reminder that the experience of renting on Capitol Hill is a unique one with its own set of challenges and circumstances. And when we talk about the future of Capitol Hill we should be talking about how it affects our renter majority.

This data gives us an idea of that, but numbers only tell a fraction of the story. To hear from renters directly and engage in deeper conversation about what these numbers mean, come out this Saturday for the first-ever Capitol Hill Renter Summit. Join other renters from the neighborhood along with the Mayor and other local officials in a day dedicated to building the voice and power of renters. The program starts at 11:30 at Miller Community Center. We have over 100 renters signed up, but there’s still room for more! Register beforehand at bit.ly/RenterSummit

Tap ORCA Here: When Transit and Housing Access Collide

It's great, I can't ride my bike everywhere_web

“It’s great, I can’t ride my bike everywhere.”

 

Transit Access Is An Equity Issue

After housing, transportation is the second highest cost for most people.  The Center for Neighborhood Technology estimates that households in the Puget Sound Region spend about 19 percent of their income on transportation.  Living in a central, walkable, transit-rich neighborhood like Capitol Hill can help households save a lot on transportation expenses by driving less or not even owning a car – one of the reasons that Capitol Hill Housing believes it is so important to provide affordable housing in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. However, for many low income people, the regular cost of using transit is still unaffordable.

In 2014, we surveyed over 300 Capitol Hill households about their transit expenses.  We found that while 42 percent of households in market rate buildings had all or part of their transit passes paid for by their employer and school, only 16 percent of households in affordable housing received similar help paying for transit. We wanted to change this for our residents.  An opportunity came when we learned about King County Metro’s new Multi-Family Passport program that allows property managers to offer the same subsidy and discounts as employers.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the money to contribute our share to the subsidy.  Luckily, SDOT agreed to step in and cover those costs in 3 buildings as a pilot project.

"We love the light rail and the streetcar and go more places than you would think."

“We love the light rail and the streetcar and go more places than you would think.”

 

How Affordable Housing Providers Can Tackle Climate Change

Promoting transit use has other benefits as well. If affordable transit passes reduce driving, that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.  Driving just recently surpassed power plants as the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.  Transportation is an even bigger contributor to emissions in Seattle because we get most of our electricity from hydro power.  If we want to tackle climate change, we need to reduce emissions from driving in ways that also have positive impacts for low income people.

GHGEmissions

Last but not least, transit pass can help reduce housing costs associated with parking.  If transit passes reduce the need for our residents to own cars, we won’t need to build as many expensive parking places.  The average parking garage space on Capitol Hill costs about $33,000 to build.  If our residents no longer need parking in our existing buildings, through our district shared parking program, we can rent out those unused spaces to generate revenue that helps support building maintenance and operations.

How Does the Affordable Housing Transit Pass Program Work?

With funding from SDOT, Capitol Hill Housing was able to purchase transit passes for residents of three of our income restricted apartment buildings, totaling 122 units.  Residents who wish to participate pay 50% of the monthly cost, which is $10, $16, or $17 depending on the building.  This compares with $117 per month for a standard individual pass or $55 per month for a standard individual low income fare or LIFT pass.  Payment for the card is processed along with rent.  Passes completely cover unlimited trips on all local transit including Metro, Sounder Train and Light Rail.

"Please keep doing this. We love it."

“Please keep doing this. We love it.”

Preliminary Results

  • Over 50% of passes sold.
  • 52% of participants previously had a card for which they paid 100% of the cost
  • The small administrative burden is small (less than 4 staff hours per month)
  • We have received anecdotal reports of over $100 in monthly savings by some participating households

Capitol Hill Housing will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the program in early 2017.

Expanding the Program

Everyone in Seattle should have affordable access to transit.  An expanded Affordable Housing Transit Pass program would leverage affordable housing providers to connect more low income people to low cost transit options.  We hope that by continuing to work with King County Metro, the Seattle Department of Transportation, other affordable housing providers, our residents, and the community at large we can expand this program to eventually serve all affordable housing properties in the city.

"It's an amazing deal. Thanks for setting this up."

“It’s an amazing deal. Thanks for setting this up.”

 

 

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