Category: Equity

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.”

 

 

Reflections following PolicyLink’s Equity Summit

I just turned 45, so I think I can officially claim the label: Middle Aged White Guy. I am okay with my age and I like to think I own my white guy privilege, which I carried along with a small overnight bag to Los Angeles for the PolicyLink Equity Summit.

PolicyLink is a national institute advancing economic and social equity. The 2015 PolicyLink Equity Summit was the first gathering they’ve hosted since 2011. The driving theme was “Equity is the Superior Growth Model.”

At the opening plenary, Stanford economist Raj Chetty offered up an uneasy laugh line: “The chance of achieving the American Dream is 2x higher in Canada. Angela Glover Blackwell, the president of PolicyLink, urged the 3,000+ crowd, saying we need to “harden our commitment to being in the struggle…to achieve equity.”

For the past couple of years, Capitol Hill Housing and our partners on the EcoDistrict Steering Committee have been working to deepen our commitment to social equity in our ecodistrict work. We added a performance area for equity and consulted a wide range of experts and community members in development the following goals:

  • ENGAGE UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS IN ECODISTRICT DECISION-MAKING
  • INCREASE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR LOW-INCOME PEOPLE
  • PRESERVE AND EXPAND AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND COMMERCIAL SPACES
  • ENSURE ACCESS TO PUBLIC SPACES AND SERVICES

We formed an Equity and Engagement Working Group from members of the steering committee and other community volunteers to create an “equity lens” through which we’ll examine and evaluate every new EcoDistrict initiative.

The working group created a questionnaire that asks several key questions: Who is included in shaping and leading the project? Who does the project benefit and who is left out? And finally, how does the project strive to address oppression, both overt and systemic. The Equity and Engagement Working Group also will lead the planning for the EcoDistrict’s first major equity-focused project, the EcoDistrict Renter Engagement Program. More details soon!

At the Equity Summit, Blackwell read PolicyLink’s Equity Manifesto where equity is defined as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.” Will you join us in the struggle to achieve equity on Capitol Hill?

Rent Control, yes or no and why?

[This blog post was originally published July 10 in the CHS Seattle blog HERE]

How do you feel about rent control? We want to know. Participate in the online dialogue.

15-0709-POLL-on-Rent-Control-356x550

Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata are squaring off against Smart Growth Seattle Director Roger Valdez (and a player to be named later) on the topic of rent control. Scheduled for July 20th, this free-to-view cage match (kidding about the cage) promises to be bloody.

Both sides are passionate and articulate advocates from opposite sides of one of the most hotly debated topics in Seattle. Rent control, love it or hate it, is a possible intervention being considered for addressing the skyrocketing rents in Capitol Hill and across King County.

Where do you stand?

Mr. Valdez contends that we don’t need rent control; that rent control feels good (“who doesn’t want to the cost of rent to just stop?”) but actually makes housing prices go up and is, by the way, prohibited by state law.

Councilmember Sawant wants tenants, unions and community organizations to organize to pressure the state to remove its ban on rent control. Councilmember Licata agrees.

There are thousands of people in Seattle already living in rent controlled apartments, also known as affordable or subsidized housing, like the 47 buildings operated by Capitol Hill Housing. But there are far more apartment buildings that are not subsidized where rent rises and falls with the market.

How do you feel about rent control? Do you believe the City of Seattle should institute rent control as a partial solution to skyrocketing rents?

PARTICIPATE NOW IN A PUBLIC DIALOGUE ON RENT CONTROL

Screen-Shot-2015-07-10-at-7.27.06-AM-600x326

https://capitolhillecodistrict.consider.it/Rent_Control

https://capitolhillecodistrict.consider.it/Rent_Control