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.