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Councilmember Sawant Welcomes Massive Faith Community Support for $50 Million/Year from Amazon Tax to Build Affordable Central District Homes for Black Families

The Church Council declares that the choice is whether “elected leaders bend to the powerful corporate interests who benefit off the backs of city-dwellers, or bend the arc toward justice ever more slightly through doing what is right and restoring the integrity of a city.”

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, today hailed the growing momentum behind the Black community-led demand for City Council to commit $50 million/year from the new Amazon tax to fund the construction of 1,000+ new affordable homes in the Central District.

“Restorative justice demands action,” declared The Church Council of Greater Seattle in a powerful letter in support of the demand to all City Councilmembers.

In solidarity with Black clergy and the People’s Budget campaign, Councilmember Sawant has introduced an amendment to the Amazon Tax “spending plan” resolution, designating at least $50 million/year to build over a thousand quality, affordable homes in the Central District for the Black community. Sawant’s $50 million measure, which will help combat racist gentrification, will be voted on in the Select Budget Committee meeting on Wednesday morning.

“The Black community’s call, supported by an amazingly broad range of faith community activists, is part of our overall People’s Budget demand to fight the racism that is endemic to capitalism, by building permanently-affordable housing, by massively investing in tiny house villages and stopping the inhumane sweeps, and by urgently defunding the police by at least 50 percent and redirecting the bloated police budget toward community needs like housing, recreation, schools, restorative justice, and good union jobs,” Sawant said. “I call on the other City Councilmembers to back up their declarations that Black Lives Matter with real action on Wednesday, by supporting our amendment to invest $50 million/year in affordable housing to reverse racist gentrification.”

From The Church Council of Greater Seattle  letter issued today:

“Restorative justice demands action to pave the way for the building of 1,000 new, affordable homes oriented to the Black community in the Central District. The Black lives of Seattle matter: targeting $50 million for funding for the basic human right of housing moves the needle to achieve the religious principle of a “sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all….”

“In time, we will be judged by how our front-line workers, a majority of whom are people of color, are treated. We will be judged by how we opened our doors to people experiencing homelessness in one of the richest counties in the richest nation in the world. We will be judged by how we respected and prioritized Black lives by saying that their having an affordable home matters, in Seattle. Finally, we will be judged by our courage or timidity: do our elected leaders bend to the powerful corporate interests who benefit off the backs of city-dwellers, or bend the arc toward justice ever more slightly through doing what is right and restoring the integrity of a city.”

Other Black faith leaders also added their support to today’s letter and the community’s growing demand to invest in affordable housing in the Central District, which has seen gentrification and economic displacement.

“Today, Seattle has a momentous opportunity to address historic inequities in substantive fashion. The legislative amendment to fund affordable housing in the Central District will enact love in the form of affordable housing for communities that have long been afflicted and begin to restore a righteous balance. I urge you to seize this moment and do your part to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice,” said Reverend J.P. Kang, associate pastor of the Japanese Presbyterian Church of Seattle.

“Our nation has once more been forced to face our sin of systemic racism and oppression. We have seen it expressed both overtly and through maligning neglect: the capture and enslavement of Black people; segregation; redlining neighborhoods and exclusion from the GI bill; the school-to-prison pipeline; erosion of Title VII; and gentrification of historically Black neighborhoods,”addedReverend Kelly Dahlman-Oeth, lead pastor at Ronald United Methodist Church. “It is well beyond the time for us to take the steps necessary to move toward reconciliation. As budgets are moral documents, investing in affordable, even subsidized, housing in the Central District in Seattle is one step toward reconciliation. I urge the City of Seattle Councilmembers to approve this funding, lest they find themselves on the morally bankrupt side of history.”

Two clergy who have been leading the effort, Reverend Willis, along with Reverend Angela Ying of Bethany United Church of Christ, have just authored an op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald, detailing how the city’s political establishment has been complicit in the pushing out Black communities and demanding that “the councilmembers’ progressive rhetoric of recent weeks, and their declarations that Black Lives Matter, are matched by the substance of their actions.”

On June 2, three senior Black clergy – Reverend Robert Jeffrey, Sr., of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church; Reverend Lawrence Willis of Truevine of Holiness Baptist Church; and Reverend Willie Seals of The Christ Spirit Churchcalled on the City to fund the new Central District homes to begin to reverse racist gentrification

From the letter:

“The displacement of long time African American residents from Seattle’s Central Area is the result of racist policies that originated in slavery, segregation, racial covenants, redlining, urban renewal, and now gentrification. Blacks families are priced out of Seattle’s unaffordable housing market.”

On June 18, the three faith leaders were joined by Councilmember Sawant and several other clergy, community leaders, and community activists in a press conference outside New Hope Church, where Councilmember Sawant announced she would be introducing an amendment to the Amazon Tax designating $50 million/year for new affordable housing to combat racist gentrification.

Just last week, a diverse group of 228 area faith leaders and activists joined in, signing an open letter to City Council declaring:

“We call for the City Council to enact a progressive tax on big business to fund housing and services, including construction of at least 1,000 homes in the Central Area to bring back households that have been displaced over the years by racist gentrification.”

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