Special Election ballots mailed for Seattle social housing initiative

Ballots have been mailed to voters for the upcoming Special Election featuring Seattle’s social housing measure.

Initiative 135, which concerns developing and maintaining affordable housing, will go before Seattle voters in the Feb. 14 election.

I-135 failed to qualify for the November ballot when King County Elections said the group behind the initiative, House Our Neighbors, didn’t procure enough valid signatures.

According to its website, if passed, I-135 would create a Seattle social housing developer that would create publicly owned social housing for those making 0 to 120% of the area’s median income.

City startup support would also be required for the first 18 months, including staff and office space.

The ordinance would also create a process for public land to undergo feasibility studies to determine housing needs and whether the land should be transferred to the developer before considering the sale of the land.

“Social housing means publicly owned and financed mixed-income housing intended to be permanently affordable,” the explanatory statement for I-135 says.

The opposing argument is that over 30 non-profits, religious, and public development authorities have already been successfully doing this for decades.

“Creating another agency to compete for scarce housing dollars that costs several million to set it up before one housing unit is produced doesn’t make sense,” the King County website says. “I-135 comes with no new funding source. It diverts attention from what’s most important – passing a new housing levy this fall and finding millions more necessary to overcome the shortfall of needed low-cost units.