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A Seat­tle ini­tia­tive that pro­pos­es to set up a pub­lic devel­op­ment author­i­ty to build pub­licly financed, pub­licly con­trolled hous­ing projects is ahead in ear­ly returns, King Coun­ty Elec­tions’ ini­tial Feb­ru­ary 2023 spe­cial elec­tion tab­u­la­tion shows.

With 21.23% turnout as of Elec­tion Night, Ini­tia­tive 135 had the sup­port of 52.82% of vot­ers, while 47.18% opposed. 102,040 votes have been tal­lied for and against the mea­sure so far. Seat­tle has 480,571 reg­is­tered vot­ers in this election.

I‑135 begin the count­ing peri­od with a 5,739 vote lead.

We assess its chances of pass­ing as strong.

Spon­sored by House Our Neigh­bors, a project of Real Change, I‑135 seeks to cre­ate “an inde­pen­dent, pub­licly fund­ed, com­mu­ni­ty led orga­ni­za­tion with the abil­i­ty to buy up exist­ing hous­ing to turn into social hous­ing, as well as build tru­ly afford­able hous­ing at the scale we need,” accord­ing to a primer from the cam­paign, which the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has endorsed.

“The pub­lic is the sole share­hold­er, mean­ing that pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships in own­er­ship do not exist,” the cam­paign’s FAQ adds. “The Pub­lic Devel­op­er may not sell off assets or shares to the pri­vate mar­ket. Com­mu­ni­ty con­trol means that res­i­dents of the hous­ing make up a vot­ing major­i­ty of the gov­er­nance board. Addi­tion­al­ly, res­i­dent board mem­bers are elect­ed by oth­er residents.”

I‑135 has the sup­port of a large num­ber of civic and pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions; Capi­tol Hill Seat­tle also found that most of the can­di­dates vying to suc­ceed Kshama Sawant in the city’s 3rd Dis­trict were vot­ing yes.

The mea­sure faced no orga­nized or fund­ed oppo­si­tion, but The Seat­tle Times called for a no vote, as did Alice Woldt, David Bloom, and John V. Fox, who devel­oped an oppo­si­tion state­ment for the voter’s pamphlet.

“Cre­at­ing anoth­er agency to com­pete for scarce hous­ing dol­lars that costs sev­er­al mil­lion to set it up before one hous­ing unit is pro­duced doesn’t make sense,” the trio argued. “I‑135 comes with no new fund­ing source. It diverts atten­tion from what’s most impor­tant – pass­ing a new hous­ing levy this fall and find­ing mil­lions more nec­es­sary to over­come the short­fall of need­ed low-cost units.”

House Our Neigh­bors not­ed in response that state law did­n’t allow for a fund­ing source to be includ­ed with I‑135 and con­tend­ed that the Seat­tle Social Hous­ing Devel­op­er would com­ple­ment rather than com­pete with exist­ing efforts to cre­ate attain­able hous­ing for peo­ple who want to live in Seattle.

“The Seat­tle Social Hous­ing Devel­op­er would­n’t seek Sec­tion 8 vouch­ers, Sec­tion 9, or the Low Income Hous­ing Tax Cred­it to finance projects,” HON’s FAQ says.

“We would be able to serve high­er income res­i­dents (those between 61–120% of the Area Medi­an Income) as we would­n’t be restrict­ed by the above list­ed fund­ing mech­a­nisms. We want KCHA [King Coun­ty Hous­ing Author­i­ty, which serves com­mu­ni­ties adja­cent to Seat­tle] to keep doing what they are doing, we see us work­ing in har­mo­ny with cur­rent afford­able hous­ing approaches.”

Con­grat­u­la­tions to House Our Neigh­bors and the coali­tion sup­port­ing I‑135 for secur­ing a major­i­ty of the vote for the ini­tia­tive in the ear­ly returns.

Count­ing will con­tin­ue on week­days for two more weeks, then the elec­tion will be cer­ti­fied and we will know the final results for I‑135.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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