Major Victory: Tenant movement puts brakes on Seattle Housing Authority “Stepping Forward” rent hike

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On Tuesday December 16th, 2014, Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) Director Andrew Lofton sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council announcing that Stepping Forward, a policy that would increase tenants’ rents by over 400% has been put on hold. According to the letter, a new policy will not be considered likely until at least 2016.

Tenants living in Seattle Housing Authority buildings, on rent vouchers, and in other SHA programs led a movement to ensure this policy would not pass. Tenants rallied, marched in the streets, flooded City Hall, and made their positions clear through call and response chants during SHA board of commissioners meetings.

Tenants have made their position clear that no policy that decouples rent from income will be acceptable and that tenants need to be included at the outset of any rent policy proposal.

Nimco Abdirahman, an eighteen year old who fought against the proposal to ensure that her family of eight can remain in their homes,  says, “This is what happens when amazing people get together and fight back for their rights. This victory is only the beginning of change”.

Though this is an important victory, tenants believe they still need to organize for accountability at SHA. Lynn Sereda, board member of the Tenants Union says, “When tenants work together and are determined, it’s possible to achieve a victory that people may have thought would be impossible…We still need to make sure that from now on there is greater city oversight of SHA and more accountability to SHA tenants and that we especially have a credible voice in the next Board of Commissioner appointments”.

Tenants are continuing to organize to ensure that this victory be made permanent by having the Mayor appoint Board Commissioners that share the values of SHA tenants and reject Stepping Forward, as well that the City Council enact a resolution seeking greater accountability to tenants in future SHA policy decisions that may still cause great harm.

For more information about the defeat of Stepping Forward and what’s next for the Seattle Housing Authority Tenants Organizing Project, please contact Denechia Powell, Community Organizer at the Tenants Union of Washington State, at denechiap@tenantsunion.org or 206.722.6848, X102.

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SHA Tenants Mic Check Executive Director of SHA Andrew Lofton

On Monday November 17th, over 100 people took to the streets of Queen Anne marching from Seattle Center to the Seattle Housing Authority board of commissioners meeting. At the meeting, dozens of folks gave public comment about SHA’s Stepping Forward proposal, and presented a sign on letter with thirty groups representing community groups, political organizations, and labor, asking when will SHA announce their rejection of the Stepping Forward proposal.

Unfortunately, Andrew Lofton, executive director of the Seattle Housing Authority made no commitments, and explained to the group–toward the end of the meeting–that the proposal would come back up at a later date. Tenants were not satisfied with this response, and responded in a coordinated action of call and response resulting in a complete halt at the Board of Commissioners meeting. Tenants said “Our input has not been delay the proposal. Our input has not been consider a hardship policy. We said no!”.

Click here to see pictures from the action!

sha save our homes

SHA Board of Commissioners: Vote NO on Stepping Forward Rent Increases

March and Demonstration
Monday, November 17th
Meet at 4PM at the International Fountain at Seattle Center (305 Harrison Street Seattle, WA 98109)
The Board of Commissioners Meeting begins at 5PM at 190 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109.

Seattle Housing Authority tenants have been organizing against SHA’s Stepping Forward rent increase proposal since August, but SHA still refuses to STOP Stepping Forward! Stepping Forward would increase rents over five years for 7,000 “work-able” tenants so high that after five years, they will need to earn between $16 and $20 an hour just to afford rent.

Tenants are demanding that the SHA Board of Commissioners votes “NO” on Stepping Forward and any other proposal where rent is not based on tenants’ incomes. Stand in solidarity with them against this unfair rent policy on SHA’s own turf and tell the Board to vote “NO” against Stepping Forward rent increases!

We will meet at the International Fountain at Seattle Center and march together to the SHA office (a 7-minute walk or roll) at 190 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109. The Board of Commissioners meeting begins at 5pm.

Demonstration at City Hall Friday, October 24th at 3PM

tenants unite

Stop SHA Rent Hikes Protest at City Hall

Friday, October 24th, 3 pm

City Hall, 600th Fourth Ave.

Tenants understand that the Seattle Housing Authority’s “Stepping Forward” proposal will be a disaster for families. It would raise rents by over 400% and force thousands out of the city or into homelessness.

A mass movement can defeat Stepping Forward, and we are off to a great start! Community members, immigrant women, and young people voiced overwhelming opposition at every SHA public hearing. At the Yesler Community Center we rallied, at New Holly we took control of the meeting, and at High Point we walked out.

Because of our protests, the Seattle City Council sent a letter explicitly opposing Stepping Forward. But more is needed to get the SHA to back down.  Come join tenants, community members, and affordable housing advocates at a protest at City Hall to demand:

  • Scrap SHA’s Stepping Forward
  • Expand high quality publicly owned housing
  • Put tenant activists on the Mayor’s affordable housing committee
  • For transparency on the SHA Board of Commissioners
  • Tenants must have a say in who is appointed to the SHA Board, and appointees must have a record of fighting for tenants

Questions? Contact Questions? Contact Abdi Mohamed: 206-802-4381; abdiorganizer@gmail.com or Denechia Powell at 206-722-6848 ext.102 or email Denechia at denechiap@tenantsunion.org.

City Council Briefing – Monday September 22nd

The City Council is holding a briefing on Stepping Forward this Monday, September 22nd. Currently, no public comment is allowed at the briefing. Turn out to let council know they need to hear from their constituents about how backwards Stepping Forwards really is!

City Council Briefing on ‘Stepping Forward’
Monday, September 22nd, 9AM
City Hall
600 4th avenue

 

Join SHA Tenants for a Rally and Press Conference – September 17th

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September 17th, 4:45PM

Outside the Yesler Community Center: 917 E Yesler Way, Seattle, Washington 98122

The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) want to push “work-able” tenants out of their housing by increasing tenants’ rents over six years with a proposed rent policy called Stepping Forward. This harmful policy will only lead to evictions and displacement of Seattle’s most marginalized residents.

Join SHA tenants as they defend their right to housing!

After the rally & press conference, please stick around for the public hearing on Stepping Forward at 6pm. For more information about the TU’s campaign to stop Stepping Forward, visit https://stopsha.wordpress.com/