It’s been amazing working with the Chateau Apartment tenants and their community allies in the fight to stop their displacement from Seattle’s Central District. Working together, we’ve won some important, path-breaking victories against their developer-landlord. And, we continue to organize and fight for full justice for every Chateau tenant. In their own words:
We are the tenants of the Chateau Apartments, and we have an important story to share about how to fight for the right to live in Seattle with affordability.
Like thousands of tenants throughout Seattle, we faced a major threat to our housing this year. Our landlord, Cadence Real Estate, a $185-million development company, planned to kick us out of our low income and affordable apartments in the Central District so they can make massive profits by turning our homes into market-rate studio apartments.
But we fought back for the last 8 months, building community support, putting public pressure on our landlord, and have won some major victories.
Our experience shows that it’s possible for tenants throughout Seattle to fight back and win affordable housing – as long as we organize and take action.
Our apartment building reflects the diversity of Seattle – from ages 0 to 93, workers, students, retirees, immigrants, and people of color. Many of us are low income. We live in one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. They are modest, but they are our homes. Some of us have lived here upwards 30 years. This is our neighborhood.
We were shocked earlier this year when we learned that Cadence intended to evict us so they could make profits. We would have been pushed out of our neighborhood. Many of us had no place to go.
We didn’t accept that. With help from Councilmember Kshama Sawant and her staff, we organized press conferences, garnered support from churches and other community organizations, collected more than 800 petition signatures in support of our plight, educated our neighbors. We all signed onto a series of demands that we presented to Cadence executives, calling on the company to find us affordable, accessible housing in our neighborhood, to help relocate us, and to give us adequate time to move.
After months of organizing, we are excited that we have won concessions from Cadence. And we are going to continue to fight to win justice for each and every tenant at the Chateau.
Cadence has agreed to transfer the low income tenants with federal subsidies on their rent (section 8) to an affordable housing building in our neighborhood. Additionally, Cadence has agreed to give each tenant $5,000 to cover moving expenses, on top of the city’s legally required $3,900 tenant relocation assistance. The company has agreed that tenants can stay in the building for at least three years if they want to. And, because we filed complaints of housing code violations, with the assistance of Councilmember Sawant’s staff, we forced Cadence to extensively repair our apartments and the overall building.
These are all major victories! While of course we all have different housing needs, from seniors to families with young children, as Chateau resident Tammy Lewis says “We are united in the fight for our affordable housing in our neighborhood – whether that is for transferring the section 8 tenants to the LIHI building, or fighting for the ability to stay in the building for as long as possible, which is particularly important for the non-section 8 tenants.”
“We are finally not stressed after Cadence told us we can stay for 3 years, and that we can move into the LIHI buildings if we want to, so we won’t be living on the street,” said Roselle Johnson, a Chateau tenant for 12 years. “I am so happy for our neighbors, who are 88 and 93, are able to stay in their neighborhood that they know. I am happy for them, that they have a place to go, where they are comfortable. The tenants are organized. God is not going to help us if we don’t help ourselves. We can’t just keep praying without doing nothing.”
We are proud of our organizing. But you won’t hear about these tenant victories in the Seattle Times, whose owners are completely aligned with the development lobby. On Sept. 28, the Times ran an article about us that was full of inaccuracies and distortions. It tried to downplay our victory, and it quoted several of us out of context.
The Times article is a classic response from bosses, landlords, and the corporate media in the face of a victory won through struggle. They attempt to portray our movement as divided, to dismiss the effectiveness of a united struggle, or co-opt the victory and say that it was their idea all along. This article did all three.
It is important that we set the record straight, in the interest of our own struggle for our housing, and for the broader fight for affordable housing throughout the city.
We’re not done fighting. We will continue to support one another until every single one of us finds secure, affordable housing, and we will hold Cadence accountable to make sure they follow through on their promises.
As Stuart and Kelly, a couple with three young children at the
Chateau, have said, “We won’t feel like we
have won until the money hits our pockets, until our fellow tenants are signing
leases. We’re winning, but the fight isn’t over yet. We need to hold Cadence to
the fire every step of the way.”
We could not have achieved this victory without broad community support, and without the support and resources of Councilmember Sawant. As soon as she heard about our plight last winter, she and her Council staff swung into action. We learned how to organize, we overcame our fear and hesitation, and we were emboldened when we saw all of the care and support in the community.
We’re going to take these important experiences we’ve gained, into our new homes, and into the upcoming campaigns to make Seattle affordable for all by winning rent control and by taxing big business to build more affordable housing.