Councilmember Tammy J. Morales and newly appointed members of the Seattle Social Housing Developer Board gathered for the first time at Councilmember Morales’ Neighborhoods Committee. The new board is tasked with overseeing the social housing developer that was created as a result of Seattle’s vote to approve Initiative 135 earlier this year. Seattle's social housing developer is one of the first in the country and is meant to create permanently affordable housing throughout the city.
Seattle, WA – On Friday morning, Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2, Chinatown / International District and South Seattle) and newly appointed members of the Seattle Social Housing Developer Board gathered for the first time at Councilmember Morales’ Neighborhoods Committee. Eight members joined both virtually and in person.
The new board is tasked with overseeing the social housing developer that was created as a result of Seattle’s vote to approve Initiative 135 earlier this year. Seattle’s social housing developer is one of the first in the country and is meant to create permanently affordable housing throughout the city.
How It Works
Like many West Coast cities, the cost of housing is skyrocketing. In Seattle, the price of renting an apartment has gone up more than 90 percent over the past decade. This has helped create a housing and homelessness crisis. Social housing is one way Seattle is trying to address this.
Social housing is regular rental housing, but instead of being owned by a private landlord, it is publicly owned and operated. The model is already being used in Vienna, Singapore, and other cities around the world.
In Seattle, the homes are rented to people making between 0-120 percent of the city’s area median income, and rents are set according to what people are able to pay. People’s rent goes toward paying off the construction and operational costs of the building. Any excess profit can be reinvested into building new affordable housing.
In February 2023, Seattle passed a grassroots-led I-135, with approval gaining 57 percent of the vote. The I-135 mandated the creation of a new public agency to develop, acquire, and maintain social housing in the city — the Seattle Social Housing Developer.
About the Board
The new Seattle Social Housing Developer will be overseen by a 13-member board. Additionally, I-135 required that the appointments include people from different economic situations — including members who have been displaced from housing and members who make less than half the area median income.
The 13 board members were appointed by several entities in Seattle. Below is a summary of all the board members, which organization appointed them, as well as a summary of their backgrounds:
|Board Member||Appointed By||Short Background|
|Brian Ramirez||El Centro De La Raza||Housing development professional working at El Centro de la Raza|
|Julie Howe||City Council||Long career in housing development and asset management|
|Alexander Lew||City Council||Urban planner and multimodal transportation planner|
|Michael Eliason||Green New Deal Oversight Board||Founder of an architecture and urbanism studio focusing on research, policy, and climate adaptative urbanism|
|Tori Nakamatsu-Figaroa||MLK, Jr. County Labor Council||UFCW 3000 shop steward with lived experience of being gentrified out of her community|
|Chuck Depew||Mayor||Senior Director of the National Development Council, a non-profit that provides economic and community development assistance to local governments and is a housing finance expert.|
|Ebo Barton||Seattle Renters’ Commission||Director of Housing Services at Lavender Rights Project. Committed to equitable change and is a leader in arts and activism.|
|Kaileah Baldwin||Seattle Renters’ Commission||Non-profit people-centered HR professional at Seattle-based advocacy organization, Puget Sound Sage & Sage Leaders|
|Devyn Forschmiedt||Seattle Renters’ Commission||Member of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition with lived experience with housing instability|
|Thomas Barnard||Seattle Renters’ Commission||Senior citizen with lived experience with housing instability in Seattle|
|Dawn Dailey||Seattle Renters’ Commission||Artist & race and social justice activist. Previous Head Start social worker and special needs educator.|
|Katie LeBret||Seattle Renters’ Commission||Currently living unhoused as a vehicle resident in Seattle, previously lived in permanent supportive housing, youth-oriented shelters, and received rapid rehousing assistance|
|Kayellen Zimmerman||Seattle Renters’ Commission||Full-time caregiver, experience with being unhoused, providing mutual aid, and doing food security & housing work|
The full biographies of the board members are available online.
“After two months of meeting weekly with all appointing entities, I am excited to announce that we have finally appointed the first Seattle Social Housing Board,” said Councilmember Tammy Morales. “This board represents a broad array of experience and knowledge, from lived experience of housing instability, homelessness, and accessing services in our current ecosystem, to public finance, labor representation, public policy, non-profit affordable housing development, social housing and regional planning experience. Thank you to everyone for your willingness to serve and lead Seattle as we undertake the creation of Social Housing in this city.”
“Supporting a wide range of housing affordability has been a key goal of my community development career,” said Chuck Depew, the Mayor’s Office appointment. “I’m looking forward to learning more and seeing how social housing fits into Seattle’s greater housing development strategy.”
“I’ve worked to get this social housing initiative passed because I believe housing is a human right, not a commodity to make profits,” said Devyn Forschmiedt, Seattle Renters Commission Appointee. “Now it’s time to bring the vision to reality.”