“A world where everyone has a decent place to live – seems like a pretty basic thing to aim for and yet more and more out of reach for many people of all walks of life. These are the issues we’re talking about and the organization we’re talking about that has this vision is Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King Country.”
This is how Washington & Me host George Blaise opened a recent episode featuring Habitat SKKC CEO Brett D’Antonio and Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donohue.
As you know, Habitat for Humanity believes in a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. With the next Legislative session in full swing, we would like to let you in on some of the bills HFH SKKC will be supporting that align with our vision!
On Wednesday, December 14, Habitat SKKC’s Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donohue joined Patience Malaba, Executive Director, Housing Development Consortium (HDC) and Dan Bertolet, Director of Housing and Urbanism for Sightline for the panel discussion “Prioritizing Affordable Housing in the 2023 Legislative Session.” Moderated by Ross Reynolds this was the first in a series of online discussions on affordable housing led by Habitat SKC’s advocacy team. To watch the full event click here.
At HDC, Patience Malaba leads a consortium of over 200 members working throughout King County in cross sector partnerships to effectively address the affordable housing crisis. HDC’s mission is to develop resources that provide access to affordable housing for low-income people. Dan Bertolet directs Sightline’s Housing Program, one part of the organization’s mission to make the Pacific Northwest a global model for sustainability. Sightline’s offices in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska work with the Seattle staff on reforming democracy, transitioning away from fossil fuels, and supporting sustainable forestry.
Both organizations’ missions dovetail with Habitat’s long-standing mission to build a more safe, affordable place for everyone to call home. All three panelists cited the recent Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) housing report as evidence that the state and county are significantly behind in housing production to meet current and future needs. When it comes to legislative action, all three will tackle changes to zoning laws as the critical first step in addressing the housing crisis.
Patience said HDC will support legislation to change zoning policies, “… but that doesn’t address all the equitability concerns.” Ryan echoed that notion. “Ending exclusionary zoning policies will be critical during this legislative session. We’re more segregated as a community today than we were at the end of redlining. In large part that’s because of the way we’ve used our land use codes.”
Dan referenced Sightline’s early focus on “Smart Growth,” which emphasizes the environmental side of development. Ten years ago, their focus shifted to make smart growth affordable. But the biggest obstacle to making that work was restricted zoning laws that said you can’t build housing near jobs. “So, we started examining policies and found the major culprit is single family zoning, which mandates detached housing on large lots.” Most cities, Seattle included, set aside nearly ¾ of their land for single family housing. Those zoning policies, passed in the 1950s, are not compatible with the current need for compact communities and multi-family housing production.
5 Key Takeaways from the Panel Discussion
The state of housing is bad. The region needs over 800,000 new units through the year 2050 to accommodate housing needs. Ryan Donohue: “Home affordability is out of reach for basically everybody – particularly those who’ve never owned a home before. The average home price in King County is $760,000 and $810,000 in Seattle, while Eastside costs are $1.4 to $1.5M. Current zoning laws exclude people of color from being able to access home ownership. Under current zoning laws, we cannot close the racial wealth nor homeownership gap.
The 2023 Legislative priorities to address the housing crisis form a 3-legged stool. Dan Bertolet: “In 2019 we started with a bill that would make ADUs easier to build; that’s the gentlest way to add density to a neighborhood.” Needed are additional zoning reforms, such as an ADU bill, a bill to allow lot splitting, a bill to remove parking requirements with new housing along with legalizing middle housing types and higher density building near transit hubs.
In the area of funding and subsidies, HDC supports a Real Estate Investment Tax (REIT) on $4 and $5M homes aimed at producing an additional $225 million dedicated to the State’s Housing Trust fund. On laws that protect renters, a Housing Benefits District Bill calls for $60 billion to create infrastructure in support of mixed communities built near transit throughout the State.
Governor Inslee’s proposed 2023 budget shows he sees this as The Year of Housing Patience Malaba: “The housing crisis cannot wait for slow or small action. If it’s done right, the budget should include hundreds of millions in permanent support of housing and housing stability.” The Governor’s proposed budget includes:
Bipartisan support for affordable housing legislation is possible, even in a polarized legislature.
Ryan Donohue: “It’s important to note that both caucuses are on record as saying we need to address the housing crisis. Separation occurs at ‘how’ to get there. We’ll likely see robust support for affordable housing funds, and it’ll be interesting to see where the totals land.”
Patience Malaba: “I do believe there is bi-partisan understanding that we are in a housing crisis. I still hope for the goodness of humanity. We need to continue to help people be in a place where there’s a gravitational pull toward collaboration.”
Dan Bertolet: “We are strategizing these bills to encourage Republican support. We have some history of bi-partisan success. The Apple Health & Homes Bill had bi-partisan cooperation.”
It’s going to take everyone to support these bills.
Ryan Donohue: “To overcome opposition, we’ll bring your voices to the table to talk as much as we can about these bills. Get involved and take action. Signup for Habitat Legislative alerts, HDC Legislative Alerts and Home WA alerts. There is significant hope.”
Patience Malaba: “HDC is working with community groups to strengthen coalitions and work with legislators on building consensus.”
Dan Bertolet: “Local representatives are often opponents of these bills. If you’re connected to your local electeds, get those who support these bills to talk in their favor.”
On January 31, 2023, Habitat for Humanity SKC will participate in a panel at the King County Affordable Housing Symposium taking place in person at the Crossroads Community Center from 9 – 11:30 a.m. Habitat Digital Event Series host Ross Reynolds will moderate a panel on Collaborating and Leading the Way for Housing Affordability. For more information or to register click here.
Proposal provides three times more support for affordable homeownership than ever before
SEATTLE (December 15, 2022) – Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties announced today its full support of Governor Jay Inslee’s Affordable Housing proposal for the 2023-25 State budget. At $75M, the Governor’s proposed budget constitutes the State’s first major investment in affordable homeownership and makes good on the Governor’s November promise to focus on housing in this legislative session.
“This is a victory and landmark investment for affordable homeownership, as well as affordable housing in Washington,” declares Habitat for Humanity SKKC CEO Brett D’Antonio. “At three times any previous housing budget, this proposal promises to produce more affordable homes in King and Kittitas Counties, while it provides significant support for family and community stability statewide.”
Past State housing budgets have been built primarily from the Housing Trust Fund alone. The Governor’s 2023 proposal expands access for affordable homeownership to housing support through more options than ever before, such as transit oriented housing construction and a housing accelerator program, targeted toward those making between 50-80% AMI. In addition, Inslee proposes spending nearly $625M in affordable housing construction.
Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties serves a client that is gainfully employed and housed. Prior to finding Habitat, many were paying more than 50% of their income on rent, living in unsafe living conditions and at great risk of becoming homeless. Inslee’s housing proposal for the 2023-25 budget can provide relief for thousands of families through Habitat’s proven homeownership model, allowing them to thrive in their own safe, affordable homes as they contribute to their communities. Habitat for Humanity SKKC currently has 290 units in its pipeline, a construction budget of $126M.
“A portion of the budget is practically written with Habitat in mind,” said Ryan Donohue, Habitat SKKC Chief Advocacy Officer, adding that this budget proposal includes a strong acknowledgement of past harms inflicted on BIPOC communities over decades of systemic homeownership prohibitions. “The $5M allocated specifically to BIPOC homeownership is a good first step toward remediating some of those mistakes,” he said. The proposed BIPOC funding dovetails with Habitat’s 2022-23 Black Homeownership Initiative, an important part of Habitat SKKC’s own 2023 Legislative Agenda.
Habitat SKKC has established a Text line for citizens to express support for the Governor’s Housing Proposal. Text the word BUDGET to 231-Habitat (231-422-4828).
In Seattle-King County, Kittitas County and around the world, Habitat for Humanity brings people together as volunteers, homeowners, donors, and community members to create strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter, ranking in the top 20 of America’s Favorite Charities for 2019 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Locally, Habitat for Humanity SKKC constructs affordable homes, revitalizes neighborhoods, repairs homes for low-income people and seniors, operates discount home improvement stores in Auburn, Southcenter, Bellevue, and Ellensburg, and mobilizes nearly 4,500 volunteers a year and advocates for safe and affordable housing solutions for all people at the state, county, and city level. Learn more at www.Habitatskc.org.
With the next Legislative session just around the corner, what better time to introduce you to Habitat for Humanity SKC’s newly expanded Advocacy Team, as well as to share their goals for this coming year, which are to:
End Exclusionary Zoning – The use of race-based restrictions and redlining maps keeps Black, Indigenous, and people of color out of neighborhoods across Washington – including across King and Kittitas Counties – limits the affordability of housing and restricts the number of homes available to these marginalized groups.
Close the Racial Homeownership Gap – Zillow reports that the percentage of Black families in Seattle who own homes is less than half that of White families; the rate for families of Latin heritage is slightly higher than half the rate for White families. By working to close the gap for Black families, we see that the goal of homeownership becomes achievable for all.
Increase Permanently Affordable Homeownership – Everyone deserves access to a safe, affordable, and decent place to live, our goal is to keep it that way indefinitely.
Now, please meet our focused and fearless Advocacy Team:
Ryan Donohue – Chief Advocacy Officer
Ryan is head of the Advocacy Team and sees to it that partnerships with united coalitions are established and maintained. He also works with our policy makers to help advance policy that will aid in increasing home ownership in Washington State.
Grew up in Las Vegas, NV and worked in 24 different states across the country!
Is the oldest of two – has a younger sister (who happens to be deaf).
Worked in politics and campaigns for 17 years, did everything from Presidential races (Hillary Clinton 2008) to state and local level races.
Has worked for Habitat for the last 3 years helping to advance affordable housing and homeownership policy for all of Washington.
Holds a BA in Political Science from The University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University.
Three words to describe you? Idealistic, Persistent, Empathetic.
What’re you currently watching? Viva La Dirt League (YouTube comedy troupe from New Zealand), anything Star Wars/MCU on Disney Plus.
Passions/hobbies/likes? Making cocktails – specifically whiskey cocktails … I make a pretty darn good Manhattan, video games – specifically single player RPG style games and karaoke! – my go to is “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations.
Why does homeownership advocacy matter to you? The short answer is “because there are too many families who are unable to access the stability that homeownership provides.” Homeownership is the key piece of the equation for creating stable homes, stable families, and stable communities. We all struggle for stability and safety. Homeownership is a key way on how to get there.
What does it take to be an advocate? Commitment, persistence, and willingness to want to see a change!
Why should people get involved and become advocates? To me, advocates are the personification of what it means to be an American – even if you aren’t a citizen. Being willing to speak up to help make this country and this world a better place is what being a member of the American community at large is all about. So much so that we enshrined it into our Constitution! We live in an imperfect union. The founders of this country even said as much. The key thing to remember is we must ALWAYS be working to move the ball forward, ALWAYS working to improve our communities. Why should you get involved and become an advocate? Because you live here too and we should all be trying to make the world we live in a better place.
Cliff Cawthon – Advocacy and Policy Manager
Our most recent addition to the team, Cliff comes onboard with a vast understanding of coalition building, community organizing, and the Washington state political environment. As the Advocacy and Policy Manager, Cliff is tasked with building, growing, and maintaining our relationships with like-minded organizations and coalitions while also building relationships at the city and county level of government here in King and Kittitas Counties.
Originally from Buffalo, NY and has called the Seattle area home for almost ten years (fun fact: he’s never lived North of the shipping canal).
Has a background in advocacy, activism, and policy and in New York, Oregon and Washington.
Earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (minor in Philosophy) from Buffalo State College.
Earned a Master of Arts in Human Rights and Political Science from the University of Manchester.
Was involved in student, immigrant, labor, and police accountability campaigns while in graduate school in Manchester, England.
Has worked for labor rights organizations, unions, the Democratic Party, community organizations and think-tanks.
Currently lives in Kent, a suburb located South of Seattle (which is one of the most racially diverse places in the US) and he ran for city council there in 2021.
Has been teaching political science part-time for the last five years, in addition to his work at Habitat for Humanity.
Believes that housing is a human right and looks forward to seeing that vision recognized!
Three words to describe you? Clever, Passionate, Flexible.
What’re you currently watching? She-Hulk, Atlanta, House of Dragons and Andor.
Passions/hobbies/likes? Comic-book collector, bookworm, video/computer-gamer, gym and home design.
Why does homeownership advocacy matter to you? Homeownership is one of the best ways of ensuring housing security and building generational wealth in America as it is now. Our system has been designed by policy-makers historically to undermine oppressed peoples’ efforts to build economic and political power and their efforts for freedom and equality; therefore, homeownership is a critical tool –then and now – to empower people.
What does it take to be an advocate? A passion for justice and a better world.
Why should people get involved and become advocates? If they don’t become advocates for themselves and their communities then, who will? No one will. We are the change-makers that we wait for.
Tapiwa Jere – Advocacy Organizer
Tapiwa rounds out the team as our Advocacy Organizer. With a desire to make a difference, her role is to be the bridge between homeowners, volunteers & other advocates and the elected officials who make and influence the laws and policies that affect affordable housing.
Born in Missouri. Lived and grew up in Kansas, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and Namibia!
Did Honors degree in Philosophy (major) and Political Studies (minor).
Oldest of two – has a younger brother.
Previously worked in Digital and Performance Marketing.
Three words to describe you? Reliable, Open-minded, Thoughtful.
What’re you currently watching? I just finished Money Heist (super late to that party, I know) and right now, I’m watching Wentworth.
Passions/hobbies/likes? Shopping! (online, in-store, window shopping – I could do any of it for hours!), Twizzlers (very specifically, the Cherry pull-aparts) and prison documentaries.
Why does homeownership advocacy matter to you? “A home is not just a roof over your head, but a foundation for your feet” – homeownership is a gateway to stability, financial freedom, self-reliance and so much more. Homeownership only changes lives for the better and everyone deserves that!
What does it take to be an advocate? A commitment and a desire to see and be a part of meaningful change.
Why should people get involved and become advocates? Because it gives you a voice in the decision-making process! You get to create solutions that work for you and your community – of the people, by the people, for the people.
Aren’t they awesome?
We know the lack of affordable housing and affordable homeownership opportunities is one of the biggest challenges facing Washington today and we’re working to make sure that housing choices are both a priority and a reality.
But we can’t do it alone; without the input of citizens like you, laws and other policy decisions might not be made that are in your best interests or those of your community’s future.
Every citizen has the right to advocate. Your voice as a voter has a significant impact on the decisions made by the nation’s leaders.
As an advocate for affordable housing, your voice makes a difference in the lives of low-income families by giving legislators the informational materials they need to make decisions and enact legislation.