(Remarks presented as prepared, see Seattle Channel for the full video and remarks as delivered.)
This is a new beginning for me, but so many of the challenges we face are not new, and Courtney’s story really embodies some of our biggest challenges in the coming years.
Courtney and her family moved to Seattle like so many of us, looking for a better opportunity for her family.
But the promise of new opportunity doesn’t come true for everyone, and Courtney, her husband and their three kids found themselves sleeping in Woodland Park, struggling to stay fed, warm and dry each day.
After spending time in the park, in motels, and in Nickelsville, Courtney and her family were able to find a home in transitional housing, where they live today.
But even that is not the stable, secure housing that she needs for peace of mind and for her children to be able to settle into their schools. Courtney needs to be out of her current apartment by the end of March.
To make matters worse, she actually has a Section 8 voucher that she could use to help house her and her family in Seattle, if only she could find a place in the city that will accommodate her family and take her voucher. That voucher expires at the end of February, and after that we don’t know what her family will do.
We hear too many stories like Courtney’s in Seattle.
Seattle is changing rapidly, and while our economy is booming today, too many people are struggling to survive in our city.
We all know the rent is too damn high, we all know we are severely short of the number of affordable housing units we need, and we all know Seattle is currently under a state of emergency around homelessness.
We must do something to address this cognitive dissonance of economic realities in our city, where some families are feeling the boom and others are feeling the bust.
In my new term as Councilmember to District 6, I will continue working on these issues that are gripping the city—housing affordability and homelessness—because I know my district is feeling them too.
We must center the experiences of families like Courtney’s, families struggling to find a place to call home. We must focus on addressing the challenges they face if we are going to be a truly equitable city.
So in the coming year, I want to focus on ensuring the next Seattle Housing Levy is as big and robust as possible, so we can create more affordable housing for more people who need it.
That means we also need to continue outreach and engagement with every neighborhood in Seattle around this Grand Bargain we reached last year, to ensure that the 20,000 new affordable units it calls for and the 6,000 new units that private development will help create can come to fruition.
This Council must also continue fighting for more shelter and safe places to be at night for people who don’t have a place of their own to call home. Families like Courtney’s aren’t well served by our current shelter system, and no child should experience homelessness, so we must do more, try more, and yes, even invest more if it means getting more people and families inside at night.
Of course, I am also excited to take on the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, and with the passage of Move Seattle last fall this Council has much work to do to ensure those projects that are fix streets, building new bike lanes and sidewalks, and creating a more reliable and accessible transit system are all coming in on time and on budget.
And we must continue Seattle’s leadership on fighting climate change and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, especially with regards to our transportation system.
But at the end of the day, we cannot forget about Courtney and her family and their struggles to get by in this city, which many of us, myself included, consider one of the finest cities in the world.
But we must show that Seattle is great, not just say it. And showing it means finding new solutions to old problems like housing, homelessness and poverty.