Washington State Standard: What advocacy groups want from lawmakers in 2024

As we approach the dawn of 2024, local advocacy groups are raising their voices to encourage lawmakers to address crucial issues, with a spotlight on affordable housing. We are among these advocates, continuing to push for more accessible housing solutions.

We continue to emphasize the need for significant investments in affordable housing across the board. Our vision encompasses various types of housing, emphasizing not only rental units but also opportunities for homeownership. As the cost of living continues to rise, Habitat for Humanity is calling on the Legislature to take bold steps in ensuring affordable homeownership remains within reach for many.

A key focus of our advocacy mission is the preservation and expansion of Black homeownership. We are urging lawmakers to allocate resources for down payment assistance and property tax relief specifically designed to support and enhance Black homeownership. Recognizing the disparities that exist, we aim to contribute to closing the gap and fostering more inclusive communities.

We are also pushing for practical measures to streamline affordable housing projects through quicker permitting processes and lower fees to provide cities and counties with more opportunities to facilitate affordable housing initiatives. By reducing bureaucratic hurdles, these changes could catalyze the development of more affordable housing units, addressing the pressing need for accessible living spaces.

This call to action aligns with a broader movement striving for positive change in housing policies. For those interested in delving deeper into the advocacy efforts shaping the landscape, a recent story from the Washington State Standard explores what various advocacy groups, including Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties, are seeking from lawmakers in 2024. Click the link to read the Washington State Standard story.

As we move forward, it’s evident that the collective push for affordable housing is gaining momentum. Habitat for Humanity and similar groups are at the forefront, urging lawmakers to embrace transformative policies that can reshape the future of housing accessibility. Stay tuned as we navigate the evolving landscape of advocacy, working towards a more inclusive and affordable housing future for all.

Honoring Rosalynn Carter’s Life of Compassion and Grace

Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties joins Habitat International in mourning the passing of Rosalynn Carter.  And, while we mourn the loss of her light, we celebrate her decades of inspiration for and dedication to the notion that everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. 

Rosalynn and former President Jimmy Carter found that Habitat for Humanity’s mission aligned with their own values in 1984, when they joined the then fledgling organization. In September of that year, the Carters led a Habitat for Humanity work group to New York, serving 19 families in need of safe, affordable housing. That was the inaugural Carter Work Project. In the decades since then, the Carters have inspired millions, working alongside more than 104,000 volunteers in 14 countries to build, renovate and repair 4,390 homes. The Carters went on to create global awareness of Habitat’s mission, helping the organization expand its work into local communities across all 50 states and in 70 countries.

Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter became Habitat’s best-known volunteers, earning them inaugural membership in Habitat Humanitarians in 2016. Habitat Humanitarians is a group of volunteers who also serve as tireless champions, advocates, and spokespeople to raise awareness of the need for decent, affordable shelter in the U.S. and around the world. 

“Over the years, she blessed us with her compassion for serving others and commitment to improving housing conditions around the world,” says Habitat International CEO Jonathan Reckford. “Mrs. Carter helped change the lives of thousands of homeowners, empowered countless women, and inspired millions of people.” 

Mrs. Carter’s example infused Puget Sound area Habitat volunteers with enthusiasm for helping others, and we’ve shared in the joy she celebrated that comes from witnessing new Habitat homeowners receive their keys. When asked what kept her engaged in Habitat year after year, Mrs. Carter said, “If you could see the expression on the faces of the people when we give them a Bible and the keys to their house, you would know why. It is just so inspiring. It is really emotional. We always cry. It’s the families that keep us going.”

Habitat for Humanity King & Kittitas Counties CEO Brett D’Antonio is certain our regional chapter will continue to draw inspiration from Mrs. Carter’s dedication, “Rosalynn believed that her work with Habitat made her a better person, and she endorsed volunteering to build homes as a life changing experience.”

The Carters impact on Habitat for Humanity goes on. The next Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project will take place in Twin Cities, MN in September 2024.

Habitat for Humanity International has created an online Memory Book for anyone to post their memories of Mrs. Carter.  Post your memories at: https://www.habitat.org/honoringrosalynncarter/memory-book

For more on Rosalynn Carter’s history with Habitat: https://www.habitat.org/honoringrosalynncarter

2024 Legislative Agenda

A home is more than just a place to rest your head. A home is a sense of stability. A sense of safety. A sense of accomplishment. It’s a place where people connect with family, friends, and their community. Now more than ever, a home is crucially important. We are about building a world where everyone has a place to call their home.

Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties proudly advocates on behalf of deserving families through supporting more affordable housing across the state – this agenda offers a good collection of policy solutions that can help us move closer to a world where everyone has a safe, decent and affordable place to call home!

Closing the Racial Homeownership Gap

In the Seattle metro region, the average homeowner has a 25 times higher net worth than a renter. Additionally, the average Black family in the Seattle region is 33% less likely to own their own home. This clear disparity has resulted in a significant racial wealth gap where the average Black family in Seattle has $433,000 less than the average white family. We need to take concrete steps to actively remedy this. We applaud the steps that have already been taken, but more needs to be done. Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties calls on the State of Washington to continue to make and increase concrete investments in preserving and expanding Black homeownership, specifically continuing to implement the policy recommendations from the Black Home Initiative. This includes increased down payment assistance, opportunities for property tax relief, and support for production of new affordable homeownership options in communities of opportunity, among many other tools.

Investing in Affordable Housing of All Kinds

This last session saw record investment in affordable housing and homeownership, but in the face of historic interest rates and long-term underinvestment, more needs to be done. The lack of affordable housing and affordable homeownership opportunities continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing Washington today. Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties urges the State of Washington to significantly invest in affordable housing in all its types, including homeownership, to ensure that new and existing affordable housing programs are accessible to affordable housing across the continuum so we can build more homes for more people across Washington.

Breaking Down Barriers to Building More Homes

Between exclusionary zoning practices, long permitting delays, increased fees, and many other obstacles, building affordable homeownership opportunities is more difficult than ever before. We are in a significant housing crisis and must tap every resource to help address the need for more housing options across Washington. Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties urges the State of Washington to identify opportunities to streamline and optimize processes for building housing and to find ways to create incentives for cities and counties to fast-track affordable housing projects while breaking down other existing barriers to production.

Bloomberg: Seattle Weighs Tripling Property Levy to Ease Crisis

In one of the nation’s most expensive markets, Seattle is taking significant steps to address its housing crisis. With the city grappling with a shortage of nearly 30,000 affordable units and more than 13,000 people experiencing homelessness, the need for affordable housing solutions has never been more critical. As reported by Bloomberg, Seattle voters are set to approve a ballot measure that will triple the supplemental property tax to fund programs supporting affordable housing.

The proposed higher levy, an extension of an existing one, could potentially generate up to $970 million over the span of seven years. This funding will be directed towards building affordable housing units and providing essential support for low-income renters in the city.

Read the full Bloomberg article here.

Understanding Seattle’s Housing Crisis

Seattle’s housing crisis is a multifaceted challenge driven by geographic constraints, rapid population growth fueled by the tech industry, and a history of restrictive zoning regulations. The city has long grappled with these issues, and the existing levy, in place for over 35 years, plays a pivotal role in supporting the construction and maintenance of subsidized housing units for sale and rent, along with programs designed to assist individuals experiencing long-term homelessness.

Strong Support and Expected Approval

The ballot measure enjoys strong support, with backing from nearly 100 local and national organizations, including labor unions, the city’s chamber of commerce, and Amazon.com Inc., the city’s largest employer. In 2016, the current levy received over 70% of the vote, indicating widespread community support.

Kylie Rolf of the Downtown Seattle Association emphasizes that Seattle voters understand the interplay between affordability, quality of life, accessible transit options, and the economic impact that these factors bring to the city and the wider region.

Combining Funding Sources

The additional tax is not intended to be the sole solution. According to Denise Rodriguez, a member of the levy’s oversight committee, it is designed to complement other initiatives and programs. New state laws and city efforts are also expected to alleviate restrictive zoning.

Developers often combine multiple funding sources to support affordable housing projects, creating a layered approach. As Rodriguez notes, if any single funding source were to disappear, it could jeopardize the entire initiative.

Habitat for Humanity’s Role

Habitat for Humanity is one of the supporters of the measure, planning to apply for housing-levy funds to construct over 200 units in Seattle over the next five years. Ryan Donohue, Habitat’s Chief Advocacy Officer for the region, emphasizes that the rate increase is necessary, particularly due to the rising construction costs compared to when the measure was last authorized.

As Donohue underscores, the increased investment is vital if the goal is to expand services and provide much-needed relief in Seattle’s housing crisis.

Seattle Times: Seattle voters to decide on $970M levy to fund affordable housing

In a significant move to tackle Seattle’s housing crisis, voters are preparing to make a crucial decision on the city’s largest-ever property tax measure for affordable housing.

The latest iteration of the Seattle Housing Levy aims to raise an impressive $970 million over a span of seven years, which is more than triple the existing levy set to expire at the end of this year. Supporters of the levy assert that it represents a “critical investment” in the city’s housing stock, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the housing shortage.

Patience Malaba, a leader of the Yes for Homes campaign and the executive director of the Housing Development Consortium, underscores the gravity of the situation, stating, “We are in a deepening housing crisis that demands more tools at scale, and this levy rises to meet the moment.” However, not everyone is in unanimous agreement, as the levy also has prominent skeptics who advocate for alternative strategies to address the housing challenges facing Seattle.

Click the link to read the full Seattle Times article.