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Councilmember Sawant: “After Historic Amazon Tax, Our Movement Has Just Won Funds for Affordable Central District Homes to Fight Racist Gentrification”

Sawant: ‘Thanks to our powerful community movement, led by Black clergy and other faith leaders, funds now will be set aside annually to build affordable housing in the Central District for Black working-class, and poor families’

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, hailed the Select Budget Committee 9-0 vote today to dedicate at least $18 million/year in the new Amazon tax Spending Plan resolution to fund the construction of new affordable homes in the Central District. The resolution, with the dedicated Central District housing funding, now goes to the full City Council for a final vote on Monday. 

Councilmember Sawant issued this statement:

“Last week, our powerful grassroots movement made history, winning the Amazon Tax! Today, because of our continued fight against racism, our movement has won a public commitment from City Hall to fund publicly-owned, permanently-affordable housing for Black working-class, and poor community members in the Central District!

“Thanks to our powerful community movement, $18 million will be set aside annually beginning in 2022, to build affordable housing in the Central District for Black working-class and poor families. It represents a minimum floor of investment, not a ceiling, because other housing funds in the Amazon tax “spending plan” resolution, the Housing Levy, and other sources also can and should be accessed for affordable housing development in the neighborhood. 

“This is not the amendment that I originally introduced, which would have invested a full $50 million per year in housing for Black working people in the Central District. I think it’s unfortunate that other Councilmembers didn’t join our movement in supporting our demand for $50 million.

“But this amendment also is not what the political establishment originally proposed to dedicate to Central District housing, which was zero. Our movement’s victory today, as with all struggles for justice under capitalism, is the outcome of the balance of forces between ordinary working people and the big-business-aligned political establishment. This also shows the urgent need to continue to build independent, democratically-organized movements with accountable leadership.

“My socialist Council office, along with our Peoples Budget movement, will be back to win more, to build further on the Amazon Tax victory, and to fight for more funding so we can actually build the minimum of 1,000 new Central District homes that our Black community members need.

“I especially want to acknowledge the leadership of Rev. Robert Jeffrey, Rev. Angela Ying, Rev. Lawrence Willie, Rev. Willie Seals, Rev. Carey Anderson, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, and young Black activists including Tealshawn Turner, Triston Spears, and Travonna Thompson-Wiley, who have played courageous and critical roles in winning this amendment, and in winning the Amazon tax last week. 

“I was honored to work directly with the Black pastors who first raised the demand that the city commit to build 1,000+ affordable homes in the Central District. Earlier this month, a wide range of more than 220 faith leaders and activists signed an open letter to the City Council supporting the community’s demand. Revs. Willis and Ying authored an important op-ed yesterday in the South Seattle Emerald detailing the history of the political establishment’s complicity in racist gentrification. The Church Council issued a powerful challenge to the Council to stand up to ‘the powerful corporate interests who benefit off the backs of city-dwellers.’ Dozens of clergy and grassroots activists spoke up at City Council meetings. Hundreds wrote advocacy letters to councilmembers, and marched in the streets demanding Central District housing funding.

“Today our movement made history, and we will continue fighting forward from here for more funding to reverse racist gentrification, through the 2020 budget this summer, and the 2021 budget debate that will begin in September. Our People’s Budget also will be fighting to defund the police by at least 50 percent, stopping the inhumane sweeps of our homeless neighbors, and building more tiny house villages to get people off the streets and into stable shelter communities with privacy and dignity.”

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