The Chateau Apartment tenants, whom my office has been working with over the last several months, have achieved a breakthrough victory in their fight against the corporate owner-developer and against displacement and economic eviction! Read about it and join the tenants at the celebration 5PM at City Hall on Monday, September 23rd, where we will also be unveiling our movement’s draft rent control legislation!
Late last year, the tenants of the Chateau Building, at 19th and Fir in Seattle’s Central District, learned that Cadence Real Estate, the $185-million development corporation that owns the building, planned to demolish the 21 apartments and displace the tenants. Most of the Chateau tenants are retirees or working families of color, many of them immigrants. Residents range in age from newborn to 93. Most of the tenants are low-income, and had nowhere else to go.
But working with my Council office, the Tenants Union of Washington, Be:Seattle, the faith community, and labor allies, the Chateau tenants organized and fought back. The movement organized around concrete demands, for the company to find affordable housing for them in the neighborhood, pay for their relocation, and commit to a longer transition time.
On Wednesday, Cadence conceded to the tenants’ core demands in a letter to all of the Chateau residents. They agreed in writing to:
•Relocate all of the low-income Chateau residents to one of two new affordable housing buildings operated by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) – one in the Central District, the other in the Chinatown/International District;
•Give each household $5,000 for relocation assistance, above the $3,900 that low-income households receive as part of the City’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Program
Delay redevelopment so that tenants could stay at the Chateau longer and move out without being rushed.
This is the kind of victory that is thought of as impossible, but becomes a reality through ordinary people refusing to roll over for corporate interests, and getting organized to fight back. This sends a big message of confidence for renters throughout our region. It’s a stunning blow delivered by our movement against a big, monied, corporate developer.
When we fight, we win!
Renee Holmes, who cares for her 88-year-old aunt, Mother Gordon, who has lived at the Chateau for three decades, said: “We had to get up and fight for what’s right. When we got organized and put the pressure on, Cadence saw we were serious. We stood firm, and today we won.”
The tenants, along with my office and allies, organized delegations to Cadence to demand their rights. They rallied, held press conferences, and garnered hundreds of petition signatures from community supporters. They spoke up a meeting of the Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights Committee, which I chair, to expose Cadence’s attempt to overrun the tenants.
The Chateau tenants movement has shown that it is possible for tenants to fight back against greedy corporate developers and landlords. Let’s carry on the fight to stop the economic eviction of working people, communities of color, seniors, disabled community members, LGBTQ people, and students from Seattle’s Central District.
Rev. Angela Ying, senior pastor at Bethany United Church of Christ and a key community leader for tenants’ rights, congratulated the Chateau residents for their tenacity and resilience in the fight. “Everyone deserves a loving home,” she said. “When we, in faith and love, stand with our neighbors facing eviction, rising rent, and homelessness, then we all win.”
I also congratulate the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) for their role in securing housing for the Chateau tenants. LIHI is doing crucial work in our community, and we need even more affordable housing to get built – now. That’s why we are building a campaign to win rent control, free of corporate loopholes. We also need to tax the ultra-rich like Jeff Bezos and Amazon, so that we can fund a massive expansion of affordable, high-quality social housing.