Sa(you)want Rent Control?

Sa(you)want Rent Control?

Last week, nearly a thousand people gathered in Town Hall to witness the debate on rent control. The atmosphere was tense and the crowds were restless, highlighting how pressing the issue of housing affordability in Seattle has become.

Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata led the argument in favor of rent control. Both Sawant and Licata described the severe burden that the increasing rent prices are placing on low-income households, and called for the need to limit these large price hikes through the rent control policy.

“The housing market is broken, and needs to be fixed,” Licata stated, “Without rent control, there is no answer to these skyrocketing rents.”

State Rep. Matt Manweller and Roger Valdez, a developer lobbyist, painted a far more negative side of rent control. They explored rent control in cities such as San Francisco and New York, linking the policy with the rise of dilapidated housing and the lack of housing growth in these areas. For them, the problem is centered on the widening disparity between supply and demand, and rent control does not address this.

“Rent control does not work,” Valdez asserted, “Build more housing – it’s that simple.”

However, addressing housing affordable is never that simple. Housing affordability has been a growing problem in Seattle since the late-1970s, and is only getting worse. Even so, history and experts are not on the side of rent control.

The debate was held in a very crowded Town Hall on July 20th, 2015.

In a rare consensus, nearly 93 percent of economists agree that rent control creates more problems than it solves. Nevertheless, Sawant and Licata are convinced that it can work.

“At end of the day, we can recite all facts, but this is about vision,” Sawant concluded, “if you want Seattle to be a vibrant, dynamic, and culturally diverse city, then we will need policies like rent control.”

Each city is unique, and it is impossible to predict whether such a policy would work. However, if any city could break the pattern, my bet is on Seattle.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Plymouth Housing: A Landing Site for the Homeless

Plymouth Housing: A Landing Site for the Homeless

Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to visit Plymouth Housing Group, an organization that serves some of the most disadvantaged homeless adults in Seattle. During this visit, we learned about the organization’s unique approach towards tackling homelessness.

Plymouth operates under a “housing first” philosophy, which focuses first on bringing people off the streets and into stable and permanent homes. This means that individuals who often have no other options for housing – drug addicts, the chronically ill, and the disabled – can find a home at Plymouth. By lowering the barriers to housing, and accepting those who are struggling the most, Plymouth acknowledges the challenges that come with homelessness and aims to tackle the issue at its core.

What struck me the most was the extent to which Plymouth went to try to make their tenants feel at home. As part of our visit, we helped make welcome posters and calendars for new residents, to provide a more welcoming and comfortable touch to their new homes. The idea is that by prolonging their stay, tenants will have greater opportunities to seek the supportive services that they need and build towards a better and more stable life.

Image taken from www.plymouthhousing.org

So far, the hard work seems to have paid off. According to Winona Caruthers, the Community Engagement & Housing Stability Coordinator, nearly 98% of tenants remain with Plymouth after one year. Today, Plymouth is serving more than 1000 formerly-homeless people in its facilities.

However, there is still much work to be done. The problem of homelessness remains rampant in Seattle, with nearly 4000 people still living on the streets – a 20% increase from 2014. At Plymouth, waitlists extend through several years, and have even closed. This poses many questions: Are we taking the right approach? Are we tackling homelessness at its source? What is the source? The city and non-profits certainly have a complex problem to address. Whatever the answer may be, volunteering at Plymouth has shown me the value of incorporating kindness and humanity into this solution.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Youth Homelessness Training @ New Horizons

Youth Homelessness Training @ New Horizons

On the night of July 1st, I attended Ropes, a homeless youth training program run by New Horizons’ staff, Joseph Seia and Tristan Herman.

The training was both intensive and interactive. At first, we were asked to name the various causes and characteristics (both stereotypes and realities) associated with youth homelessness. Then, we were taught to analyze ways in which volunteers can appropriately support these populations to minimize power differentials and transactional relationships. We participated in a role playing exercise, in which we were given identification cards of respective homeless youths, and asked to achieve a set of goals (i.e. SSI, transitional housing, a bed for the night, medical care, etc.) from service organizations played by other training attendees.

I played the character of 25 year-old Sage, an African-American transgendered female, who had recently escaped the confines of an abusive relationship, and had no financial backing. In our role play, Sage was denied SSI from DHHS because her illiteracy prevented her from filling out the right forms, denied transitional housing because of her anxiety during her housing interview, and was sent to jail for not being able to pay two tickets for jaywalking (is that even a real crime?).

Throughout the exercise, the police did little to help Sage and the other youth—rather, they were stifling.  Right before the exercise was over, Sage received a change card, detailing a hate crime incident that left her in the hospital. She could not afford to pay the $1200 medical bill, and she was sent to jail. Again.

The exercise was difficult for everyone involved—service organizers were torn between wanting to do what was humane (denying no one) versus what they were told to do (stick to bureaucratic routines, rules, etc.). The exercise helped me to realize how readily the homeless are dehumanized or victimized by not only the public, but by government and law enforcement officials as well. Playing the role of Sage was especially difficult given her gender identity—in almost every scenario, she had a significantly harder time achieving her goals than did cisgender youths participating in the same exercise.

Joseph stated, “How you receive [trans youths] at the door [of any organization] will determine whether or not they continue to come back,” highlighting the importance of LGBTQ education in his work. As hate crimes increase on the streets, the world becomes infinitely more cruel towards LGBTQ homeless youth. Violence aside, Joseph and Tristan explained how internalized oppression is one of the most lasting and dangerous effects of youth homelessness. Tristan argued that one of the biggest obstacles New Horizons faces is “young folks’ really low self-worth… this unshakable sense of inferiority.” Internalized oppression drastically increases drug and alcohol abuse on the streets, as well, making it even harder to reach out for support.

This training was super helpful (thanks Joseph and Tristan!) and informative. I’d strongly recommend attending—you won’t be the same person when you leave.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Buses. Are. Amazing.

Buses. Are. Amazing.

Buses may seem like an eyesore and a drain on the economy to someone who doesn’t understand their importance, but for those who use them or understand their value, it’s easy to see how much they mean. Buses get people to work. They get people to school. They create independence for seniors and disabled people. They reduce traffic. Buses are hugely important to having a healthy and productive city.

At my first phone bank to fund Seattle’s metro I heard someone say, “The bus is one of the only places that people are together on a daily basis regardless of class, race, and gender.” That idea really means a lot to me. It shows how Metro in Seattle is much more than just a bunch of buses. It’s a force that brings together almost every kind of person that lives and travels in our city.

The awesome #10 Seattle bus goin’ up Pike towards 15th ave.

In the world today there are often very strict barriers between race, class, and gender. These issues are slowly improving but they’re far from over. On the bus everyone sits together . Everyone who takes the bus spends a few minutes of their day in the company of a greatly diverse group of people. There may not be a lot of communication or dialogue but everyone’s still there and together in the same space.

Just being in the same space as others and seeing diverse groups together can help change the way people think about others. I think that just by taking the bus people can become more accepting and understanding of others around them. It may be a small change but even on a very small level this acceptance is critical.

So how should you support this amazingly important cause? By voting yes on Seattle Transportation Prop. 1 on November 4th!

Seattle Transportation Prop. 1 will fund the buses and make them run more smoothly and efficiently. With this measure the bus will be able to reach more people and will better serve our city. Gettin’ people where they need to go. Bringin’ the city together. All good things when it comes to the Seattle buses. And as always, don’t forget to vote.

This blog post was written by Tatum McConnel, sophomore at the Seattle Academy and Communications Coordinator with the 2014 Fall Internship.

Why’s Pre-K Such a Big Deal?

Why’s Pre-K Such a Big Deal?

A battle has raged on between Seattle lawmakers and Seattle unions, AFT Washington and SEIU Local 925, for months now – so what’s it all about? Preschool. Might not be what you were expecting. By November 4th, voters will have to decide between two options on the ballot that both have to do with the child care industry. Here’s the thing, only one can get passed.

Prop 1A, backed by AFT Washington and SEIU 925, aims to improve working conditions by raising wages and creating a new training institute for child-care workers, while also limiting costs of pre-K to 10% of a family’s income.

Prop 1B, proposed by City Council and the Mayor, wants to take a first step towards creating a universal Pre-K by subsidizing Pre-K costs for families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty line.

They say the devil’s in the detail, so what’s the catch?

Currently, the main issue is that no one has any idea how much Prop 1A will cost. Prop 1B aims to serve 2,000 3- to 4-year olds through a $58 million property tax levy over 4 years, but Prop 1A estimates have huge ranges! The Prop 1A campaign says it will cost about $3 million. The Prop 1B campaign says Prop 1A could cost $100 million. That’s a pretty big difference.

So how can there be such a huge difference between the two budgets?? The problem is that no one can really know how much Prop 1A will cost, because no one knows how the wording will be interpreted in court. There’s no way to know if pieces of the measure will be viewed as mandatory or aspirational. (For an in-depth look into the financials of Prop 1A check out Publicola’s recent article on the subject.)

So why is preschool so important? 

The leading study on preschool is currently the Perry Preschool Project. This study took a group of kids from Ypsilanti, Michigan and put half of them in a preschool program and the other half didn’t go to preschool. They did this for groups of kids from 1962-1967. They studied these kids for several decades and found amazing results.

By age 40 the kids who had gone to preschool were 19% less likely to have been arrested 5 or more times, and were 20% more likely to earn and additional $20K. Participants were also 17% more likely to graduate high school.

This all adds up to an amazing public return as shown below.

If you can’t read the small print, that’s $12.90 return per dollar invested!

In summary:

Pros of 1A:

  • Sets a $15 minimum wage for child-care workers (3-year phase-in)
  • Certified training is required for child-care workers
  • Set’s the cost of child-care to a maximum of 10% of family income

Cons of 1A:

  • Budget is completely unknown due to lack of funding mandate
  • Does not currently guarantee any number of additional Pre-K students

Pros of 1B:

  • Subsidizes Pre-K for families earning up 300% of the federal poverty line
  • Aims to guarantee Pre-K for additional 2,000 3- to 4-year-old students
  • Set budget of $58 million over 4 years via Property Tax Levy

Cons of 1B:

  • Serves only 6.7% of Seattle children under 5-years-old.
  • Higher property taxes

No matter what happens the hope is to get more kids into preschool. That would be an awesome step for Seattle to take!

And, as always, don’t forget to VOTE!

This blog post was written by Tatum McConnel, sophomore at the Seattle Academy and Communications Coordinator with the 2014 Fall Internship.

How Much are You Willing to Pay?

How Much are You Willing to Pay?

What is college notorious for? We’re not talking crazy parties and stressful finals. We’re talking about something near and dear to everyone’s hearts: tuition costs.

Many students go into college thinking that a bachelors degree will give them access to better paying jobs. Education is also a way for everyone to get access to opportunities which will put them at a level playing field with others. But tuition costs are causing college students mo problems than they signed up for.

Tuition costs are at the highest that they’ve ever been and the amount students need to pay for higher education doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon. Public universities and colleges are seeing the most dramatic rise in tuition.  Most costs from increasing need for research funding and salaries for staff.

Unfortunately routine budget shortfalls since the beginning of the Great Recession (especially in the state of Washington) have dramatically increased the portion of higher education that students themselves are paying. Where the state used to fund 80 percent (yes, you read that right, eighty!) it is now below 30 percent.

As tuition continues to rise students are beginning to more seriously weigh the costs and benefits of higher education. However, by 2020, around 70% of jobs in Washington will need some kind of post secondary education.

With rising tuition costs dealing with student debt is going to become more difficult for people. What do you think? As a young person, how are you dealing with your student debt?

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from the Washington Bus.

You have Successfully Subscribed!