Seattle's Social Housing Initiative Aims to Address Housing Crisis with Innovative Model

Tye Reed and Camille Gix of the House Our Neighbors coalition discuss Seattle's Social Housing Initiative 135, which aims to create a publicly-owned, permanently affordable housing model.

Seattle's Social Housing Initiative Aims to Address Housing Crisis with Innovative Model

NOTE: Seattle voters passed Seattle's Social Housing Initiative 135 in 2023.

A new initiative, known as Initiative 135 or the Social Housing Initiative, is gaining momentum in Seattle as a potential solution to the city's ongoing housing and homelessness crisis.

In a recent Hacks & Wonks interview, Tye Reed and Camille Gix of House Our Neighbors, the organization behind Initiative 135, to discuss proposed social housing program that will appear on Seattle's February ballot. The initiative seeks to establish a new model of publicly-owned, permanently affordable housing that promotes cross-class communities and is resident-led.

Gix explained that social housing is based on four key principles: public ownership, permanent affordability, cross-class communities, and resident leadership. Rather than relying on limited federal subsidies for low-income housing, the social housing model sustains a mix of incomes where higher-earning tenants help cross-subsidize lower rents, while all tenants pay no more than 30% of income.

The initiative would create a Public Development Authority (PDA) called the Seattle Social Housing Developer that could acquire existing properties or build new housing. After paying off initial development costs, rental income could be reinvested into new projects, allowing the program to grow.

The city would provide startup support and the PDA would seek funding through a mix of city, state and federal allocations, and philanthropic sources. Because state law limits initiatives to a single subject, organizers say they would run another initiative to secure a funding source if needed.

One of the key features of the social housing model is its emphasis on cross-class communities. "We're talking about creating neighborhoods where people don't have to feel the existential dread of poverty just by existing," Reed stated. "And so I think that there's a lot of political reasons why we should do it now. And I think our homelessness crisis is why we should do it now. And our housing crisis - and all of the units that we know we're missing in the City."

When asked about the potential impact of the initiative, Gix highlighted the income ranges it would serve. "The 100-120% of the median income right now for an individual is just under $100,000. And so you have - it varies from household size - so if you have 1-4 people, it's going to change. But if you're an individual making about 120% of - sorry, $120,000/year - you would qualify to live in this housing. And like Tye said - this is nurses, this is some public school teachers who've been in the system for a long time - and these are people who currently don't qualify for any form of affordable housing."

"A lot of this is about the political will to actually invest in a solution that isn't only what we've been doing," Reed said.

Organizers say early polling shows very strong support once voters understand the concept, with 90+% of those contacted supporting it. The campaign will focus heavily on field outreach to engage voters and raise awareness about the initiative through an extensive field operation and communications plan.

"The persuasion part has not been too difficult - there's not a lot to be persuaded on - people understand the crisis that we're in and people feel it personally," Gix said.

If passed, Initiative 135 could mark a significant shift in Seattle's approach to addressing its housing crisis, offering a innovative model that prioritizes affordability, community, and resident leadership.

About the Guests

Tye Reed

Originally from Kansas City, Tye Reed (she/her) is a community organizer in Seattle focused on homelessness advocacy and direct aid to encampments. She is the Co-Chair of House Our Neighbors and a member of the Seattle Transit Riders Union.

Find Tye Reed on Twitter/X at @themobilepauper

Camille Gix

Camille Gix is a steering committee member for Initiative 135, a policy intern at Real Change, and finishing up her Masters degree in Public Policy at UW, focusing on social policy analysis and housing studies.

Find Camille Gix on Twitter/X at @CamilleGix.

House Our Neighbors

Find House Our Neighbors on Twitter/X at @houseRneighbors.


House Our Neighbors | Yes on I-135

Public Development Authorities (PDAs) from the Municipal Research and Services Center

Seattle to vote on ‘social housing’ initiative in special election” by Amanda Zhou from The Seattle Times

Social Housing Measure Qualifies To Run on Seattle Ballot Next Year” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist

Public Housing For All” by Paul Williams in NOĒMA Magazine

Social Housing in the U.S.” by Oksana Mironova & Thomas J. Waters from Community Service Society

Growing Social Housing in Seattle” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it.

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Today I'm really excited to be welcoming two people from Initiative 135, the Social Housing Initiative in the City of Seattle. We have with us Tye Reed, who's originally from Kansas City, and she's a community organizer in Seattle focused on homelessness advocacy and direct aid to encampments. She's the Co-Chair of House Our Neighbors and a member of the Seattle Transit Riders Union - fellow member. Camille Gix is a steering committee member for Initiative 135, a policy intern at Real Change, and finishing up her Masters degree in Public Policy at UW, focusing on social policy analysis and housing studies. Welcome, both, to the program.

[00:01:32] Camille Gix: Thank you.

[00:01:32] Tye Reed: Thank you, Crystal. Thanks for having us.

[00:01:34] Crystal Fincher: Excellent. So I just want to start out by getting an overview - people have now probably heard that social housing is a thing, but what is it? What will this initiative do? What kind of change will people see?

[00:01:47] Camille Gix: Yeah, I can take this first question. So social housing - we can define through four pillars. So one is that social housing is publicly owned, it is permanently affordable, it promotes cross-class communities, and it is resident-led. So diving into each of those just a little bit more - the public ownership is really key. Social housing, as it's been practiced around the world, is on public land - it is considered a public good and something that we really haven't seen in a large way in the United States, except for one county in Maryland. The permanent affordability component means that regardless of a person's income, it will always be affordable - it will never go over 30% of a household's income in rent payments. The cross-class communities is how the financing for social housing works. You have people who make a lot more money living in the same communities with people who make a lot less money, and the people on the higher end of the income spectrum are able to cross-subsidize those on the lower end of the income spectrum - meaning that they help to cover the operations and maintenance costs of the housing in a way that communities that only have lower income people isn't able to meet. And then the cross-class communities is also important because of our country's history of segregating low-income and Black and Brown communities, and so the social housing works against that historical narrative that we have with low-income housing. Then the resident-led component is the idea that residents in the buildings and in the housing have say over what happens to their housing, so not only do they make up a substantial part of the board of directors of what we're doing here, but each building will also have a governance council that makes decisions for their specific buildings.

And so basically, just to sum up, the initiative itself is the culmination of all four of these pillars of social housing. It is creating what will be known as the Seattle Social Housing Developer, which operates under Washington State's Public Development Authorities models, and the initiative establishes this developer which will own, develop, and maintain housing that is modeled after social housing - so cross-class, resident-led, permanently affordable, and public in perpetuity.

[00:04:21] Crystal Fincher: So Tye, why did you decide to bring this initiative forward now, and why is it so important?

[00:04:29] Tye Reed: Yeah, the now aspect, as I feel like most of us in Seattle can understand, it's - this isn't something that we needed now, this is something that we needed 30, 40 years ago. The social housing models that we've used to build up what we want in this initiative - Vienna, Singapore, all these other places, even places with a lower amount of social housing - they've been doing it for far longer - decades - they've just built housing for a really long time. So right now is because we're really behind. And I think that politically - personally, in 2021, after the No campaign to - No to Compassion Seattle - that was really formative to this Yes, right? I did not know and did not come to be with a lot of the people in House Our Neighbors - including Camille Gix, including my Co-Chair Tiffani McCoy - until we had something to say No to. And then as we've built this energy and this movement and got people talking about why aren't we doing more for the housing crisis and the homelessness crisis, then we had an opportunity while people are all together to say Yes. So I think the why now is just like kismet, just like whatever - it had to happen eventually.

But the reason that it's important is a lot of the things that Camille named are so fundamentally different from not just the way that we've built and developed housing, but the way that people in Seattle, people in the United States build communities together, right? We don't build communities in mind that renters have power. We don't build communities in mind that poor and rich people should be living together, and that your income shouldn't really have a bearing on the amenities that your housing has, right? So I think a lot of it is - it's important morally and ethically and ideologically that we actually start building a city, infrastructure, housing, education networks that model better morals than what we have today. So that we are able to actually create community. So I don't want to say it's a highly moral thing - I think it's also super pragmatic. But for me, the description of social housing with those four pillars is fundamentally different from how I grew up. As a poor person who grew up almost exclusively on Section 8 or living in public housing, you know you're poor. And you feel it every day - everybody around you is poor - you have that sense of feeling everywhere and your neighborhood is specifically poor. We're talking about creating neighborhoods where people don't have to feel the existential dread of poverty just by existing. And so I think that there's a lot of political reasons why we should do it now. And I think our homelessness crisis is why we should do it now. And our housing crisis - and all of the units that we know we're missing in the City. But I also think that we're talking about fundamentally changing the way Americans, the way people in Seattle, relate to each other and think of each other as community.

[00:07:18] Crystal Fincher: Which makes sense and we're at a moment now that is a different moment than we've been in for a while in Seattle. I feel like there is more recognition than there ever has been before and more motivation for action to address the housing crisis, and people really recognizing that the housing crisis is making the homelessness crisis worse. And that people are not able - to enter into the housing market, certainly, is extremely difficult - but even the rental market in the City of Seattle has excluded and displaced so many people and will continue to unless something very different happens. So I guess the next question is - when it came to figuring out what the different thing that needed to happen was, we've heard conversations about, Hey, there are a number of publicly-funded nonprofit Public Development Authorities, developers that currently exist in the City of Seattle. Why go this different route with social housing rather than invest more in the existing public housing infrastructure?

[00:08:34] Tye Reed: I'm sure Camille has a lot of response to this. She did a lot of research for this. But I think the fact that housing nonprofits, the housing industrial complex itself has existed for decades, proves that those models aren't working and that just really investing in models that have very limited scope exclusively isn't going to work for us. Obviously, those things like the PDAs that exist in Seattle - especially the ones that are meant to undo historical marginalization or address historical marginalization - those things are super needed. But a lot of what we see here, once again, is reinvesting in this public housing model where we're talking about short-term or limited amounts of housing being on the market for public housing and this - not mixed-income communities. I think that's important and I want to hammer into that more than anything is that the models that we've seen before aren't creating mixed-use communities that are able to actually thrive and not create segregation and displacement. We're finding that, yes, you can create a PDA and get a certain group of people inside housed, but not at the scale that we need. We're also talking about scale. We're hoping to develop a citywide, non-neighborhood specific, which is what we have a lot - we have the Pike Place PDA and the Chinatown PDA - that is citywide, that is saying that this whole entire city needs to be, for one, rezoned. And also needs to have the kind of housing, the level of housing that certain neighborhoods already do, so that we're not just forcing housing into the same neighborhoods over and over. So I do think the fact that this is a citywide program that is meant to actually address the scale of - estimating 40,000-60,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County - we need to be building at that scale and I don't think the PDAs that we have currently, as useful and as important as they are, are at that level quite yet.

[00:10:31] Crystal Fincher: And what are your thoughts, Camille?

[00:10:32] Camille Gix: Yeah, I think that Tye did a really great job at explaining the citywide component of this particular thing. And then I think as far as the social housing - and bringing it back to how social housing is a really new concept for us in the United States - I think if you look at Vienna, for example, is the one that people tend to talk about the most because it has the longest history of social housing. But like Tye was saying, nonprofits on their own haven't gotten us to where we need to go - and it's not to say that they haven't done a lot of important work, but we're not to the numbers of housing units that we need to keep everyone affordably housed. And Vienna is a city where they do have a very large nonprofit sector, and the nonprofit sector is doing its part to house people. But the majority of the housing in Vienna is publicly-owned, and it is this publicly-owned social housing component that has made them one of the most affordable housing cities in the world and kept people affordably housed across the income spectrum.

And then I think the other really important thing to note here is just to reiterate this sort of cross-class mixed-income component of social housing, and why the existing Public Development Authorities that we have within the City of Seattle are not necessarily going to get us to where we need in a sustainable way - because the nonprofits and Public Development Authorities that currently exist are limited very much by federal financing mechanisms like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and things that are provided to them through the Housing and Urban Development Department of the United States. And this department is - it keeps people at a very low income - it requires that all units are for very low incomes and this causes this lack of financial stability and financial sustainability. Because if you only have people with very low incomes in an apartment, you're not going to be financially stable because there is going to be this idea of operations and maintenance that will not be able to be met by the rents of very low income people. And so when you have higher income people in the same apartments as those who are very low income, then you're able to meet the maintenance and operations costs of a building and still maintain this financial sustainability component.

[00:13:08] Crystal Fincher: So I think what a lot of people are wondering is how this social housing initiative is set up to have a more sustainable funding mechanism and be more able to address the scope of the challenge that we're facing in terms of this housing crisis. One of the things that seems to be a challenge is not necessarily that the existing programs are somehow bad, but that they lack funding. And that they just aren't able to address the scale of the housing problem because they're reliant on limited federal funding - for as good as their projects are, they just aren't able to do enough of it. How would social housing address that and how can it provide a more sustainable funding source that can address the scope of the problem that Seattle is facing?

[00:14:07] Camille Gix: Okay. So to talk a little bit about the financial model of social housing - as it's been done in Montgomery County, Maryland, which is the only existing social housing developer in the United States right now - and it's the model that the Seattle social housing developer and a lot of what we've been doing is mostly based off of. This model of social housing starts with a relatively small capital grant of anywhere from $5-10 million. So the capital grant can come from a variety of sources - the city budget, state budget, and non-restrictive federal funds outside of the Housing and Urban Development Department. And this $5-10 million is - again, like I said - relatively small. So in comparison to the amount of capital that a nonprofit would need, it is very small because the majority of the funding for social housing is coming from debt. So that means very low interest municipal bonds - the City of Seattle provides about 4% interest municipal bonds if we're getting into the details, which is the low interest debt that it pays off over time. And because of the mixed income component of social housing, the higher income rents are able to make sure that the debt is able to be paid off over time. And after the term of the loan, so usually 30 to 40 years, the debt is now paid off and the rents are now able to go towards new buildings. And so every rental payment after a loan for a specific building is paid off is then going into the developer to create new buildings. And this is a cyclical process that allows for the developer to be sustainable, not only within a specific building, but also to be sustainable in creating more and more housing over time. And the more buildings it owns and the more residents it is renting out to, the more it is able to grow - and it's this exponential growth that it's able to see. And in this process, it doesn't require these rental subsidies, which most nonprofit development requires because you're only renting to low income people - so you need, in order to pay off debt or make maintenance costs, you need these subsidies that keep people in their housing. But with social housing, it has this cyclical nature to it.

[00:16:51] Crystal Fincher: Okay. So you talked about the funding, if this is approved, could come from a variety of sources. So is this reliant on a budget allocation from an external entity, or is there a funding mechanism to start built into this initiative?

[00:17:05] Camille Gix: There is no funding mechanism built into the initiative. This is something that we did initially hope to do and set out to do, but we learned pretty quickly in the drafting process of the initiative that it is not legal within Washington state law for Public Development Authorities to have taxing authority, so we weren't able to direct any specific funds from the city or state budget to this developer. What we are doing simultaneously to running this campaign is looking for options to funding - so it will require allocations to come in the form of city or state budget allocations, but we do have a number of state legislator endorsers of the initiative who are working with us to make sure that we have a budget proviso in this upcoming session to create some funding from the state budget. And then as far as the city budget, we are also looking into possibilities there. And something that we've been very open about throughout the campaign is that if we are unable to get money from the city or the state, we will run another initiative as a coalition to create a funding source that's able to fund social housing.

[00:18:22] Crystal Fincher: Okay, and in this process as - so working on getting that budget proviso - there is funding provided, and I think you said in the neighborhood of a few million dollars? Did I have that correct?

[00:18:35] Camille Gix: The initiative does stipulate that the City of Seattle will have to provide 18 months of in-kind support to the developer - and this will mostly look like staff time for the initial staffers as well as office space for the initial entity to get up and running. And so that's going - I believe during budget discussions, the City Council determined that this would be about $750,000 over 18 months, just for the startup costs. But then as far as the initial capital money that the developer will need, that will be found on the side through staff time and grant writing.

[00:19:14] Crystal Fincher: And then how are the properties going to be acquired? Are they going to be built? Are they going to be bought? How does that process happen?

[00:19:24] Camille Gix: Yes, and - so they can be constructed - so Public Development Authorities in the City of Seattle have a history of partnering with other public entities like Sound Transit to build housing near transit hubs. And so you have a light rail station and all of the airspace above it, so housing could be constructed on these public lands. And it can also then acquire housing off of the private market, and this is something that we imagine - we don't know for sure - and it'll very much depend on the board and the staff and what is available on the market once this is up and running, but you have lots of buildings that are going up on the market every day. We have a building which recently sold in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called the Madkin Apartments - this was what a lot of people would consider naturally occurring affordable housing - and the apartments were sold to an LLC. And the building will likely increase its rents to the point where most of the residents will have to move out. And so the Seattle social housing developer will be able to acquire buildings like that to keep them affordable for their current residents.

[00:20:35] Crystal Fincher: And will that require additional funds, allocations? Is this basically just a municipal authority entity that will need allocations - like any other entity - to perform their functions, I'm assuming?

[00:20:51] Camille Gix: Yeah, exactly. I think that as it first gets started up, it will require allocations from the city and state to be able to purchase these buildings, but again - they're also, even if it's purchasing a building that is already in existence, it would be much like an individual family purchasing a home. It can work still primarily off of debt - meaning that if it has enough for a down payment, then the rest of the funds would come through these municipal bonds, which would allow it to pay off the amount of the building over time. And then again, as the entity has more and more assets, it then has more funds to be able to acquire buildings without the need for city and state grants over time.

[00:21:37] Crystal Fincher: That makes sense. So tell me more about how you're looking at the sustainability of this model when it comes to some people who may be of much lower incomes needing some form of subsidy - it looks like the plan is from other higher income residents in these buildings. Is that currently working? Is there a model where you're seeing mixed income public developments that are self-sustaining?

[00:22:06] Camille Gix: Yeah. So this is where it's really great to have this model in Maryland. So Montgomery County - their Housing Opportunities Commission is doing just that. They have been doing that for a number of years and recently have started an uptick in their production - because the county saw what they were doing and said it was great and they've started allocating more funds to their Housing Opportunities Commission, so they're growing at a higher rate now. And they have these buildings which are - they have the mix from very low income, the 0-30% Area Median Income levels, all the way up to market rate housing. And the market rate housing is - the rents from those high income earners are going back into the Housing Opportunities Commission to help to subsidize the 0-30%, 0-50% AMI earners - and it has been a very successful model. They've also built to Passivhaus standards, which is a standard of green building, that we've also written into our initiative. And they're just getting started, but over the last six to seven years, they've done a really wonderful job at building a large amount of housing to house people from this wide range of incomes.

[00:23:26] Crystal Fincher: And what are your thoughts, Tye?

[00:23:27] Tye Reed: Yeah - I love Camille a lot because she has so much knowledge about this initiative and she has just given us a really good overview of what this could be and how this could work. But I would like to say that the caveat to what she just described - and mentioning Maryland - is that there's a political will to do it. I think that one of the things we talk about a lot at House Our Neighbors - about the decision of about anything we do is - once this gets set up, there's nothing we can do to make it actually work. There's nothing that we can do to get the City to invest - if the City, if this actually gets passed and when this gets passed - and the City could see a recognized mechanism for actually building affordable housing - because we all are admitting we have a housing crisis - we could be having a budget allocation from lots of other places in the city budget that are going to waste. I would say the police department gets a blank check. But the idea of using not even experimental, but innovative housing solutions for our crisis that we're in - I think that's the caveat to what she's saying is - regardless of the numbers, regardless of how right it sounds, or what could or could not happen, I think that a lot of this is about the political will to actually invest in a solution that isn't only what we've been doing. And I commend Maryland County - or Montgomery County, Maryland - for actually seeing that this is something that they needed to invest in, and hopefully they continue to invest in it over the years to get that payout of actually housing people and maintaining housing affordability.

But once this gets passed, nothing that House Our Neighbors does is going to actually make it actually happen. We have to get people in office who are fighting to get some kind of capital investment in the budget every year. We have to have people in office who are willing to set aside some funds, who are willing to invest in the project, who are willing to have City lands be used to build upon, we have to have people in office willing to rezone the City so we can actually be building that kind of housing more. And so a lot of this is not just about what the mechanism is that we're putting in place. A lot of it is what's the political landscape of Seattle right now, which is of course a whole another discussion. But I wanted to add that on top of Camille's excellent explanation of this initiative.

[00:25:41] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much for that. And I also just want to talk a little bit more about the impacts on the ground. So we're talking about percentage of annual income. In terms of numbers and salary, what does that mean? Who would this potentially impact in the City of Seattle and what kind of difference can it make?

[00:26:02] Tye Reed: I'm sure Camille has more of the exact numbers, but when we're talking about housing people from 0-120% income - I think one of the criticisms we get online, so who knows whether it's valid or not, is that we shouldn't invest in anything that supports people who make 120%, just outright. And that doesn't really make sense, right? Because those are teachers, social workers, nurses, myself - people in the range of 80-120% aren't mega-rich people who have a lot of ability to choose anywhere that they live, especially if you're talking about people who are raising families. And so we're going to see a lot of this open up possibilities to actually making the city affordable, so that people aren't always paying 60% of their income, 70, 50% of their income on housing, right? It's about making it lower so that you can actually have a higher quality of life. Large swaths of the city are not making $150,000 and so they have some sort of flexibility in where they live. Everybody should have the right and have the ability to choose where they live in the city. And right now for lower income people, it is very limited. And this initiative hopes to change that and to stop displacement as well.

[00:27:16] Crystal Fincher: So Camille, what does that equate to in terms of an average, an annual salary for people in Seattle?

[00:27:23] Camille Gix: Yeah, so the 100-120% of the median income right now for an individual is just under $100,000. And so you have - it varies from household size - so if you have 1-4 people, it's going to change. But if you're an individual making about 120% of - sorry, $120,000/year - you would qualify to live in this housing. And like Tye said - this is nurses, this is some public school teachers who've been in the system for a long time - and these are people who currently don't qualify for any form of affordable housing. People who arbitrarily are denied affordability because they make an arbitrary - above an arbitrary threshold of money per year - and so you have that. And then there's also the component of - what I would just add to what Tye said as well - that right now a lot of our affordable housing programs, if you are currently - if your last year you made 75% of the Area Median Income, or about $75,000, you qualify for your affordable apartment. But you get a raise and you go up to 80% of the Area Median Income, or about $80,000/year, you're kicked out - you don't qualify for that apartment anymore and you have to go find something on the private market. And so what this is doing also is saying that - You change your income? Great. You stay in your housing and maybe your rent might adjust to your new income, but you don't need to go and find an entirely new apartment and pay market rates just because you're making a little bit more. And so I think that this not only applies to those people who are currently making 80-120% AMI, but it also applies to people who have denied raises or decided to work fewer hours in order to maintain their benefits in their apartments.

[00:29:23] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And Tye, the point you made just about how many people this does impact - that both of you have made about how many people this does impact - we are talking about shortages in teachers and nurses and drivers - and just so many people everywhere - transit workers. And those oftentimes are the types of people who are falling into this income bracket - the people who we rely on to make our community vibrant and beautiful and work. And we're excluding so many people from that and displacing so many people from Seattle. How will this make a difference? Do you anticipate that this is something that is a long-term solution that we need to get started on now? Is this something that can have a quick impact? How do you see this playing out if it's passed?

[00:30:15] Tye Reed: So a lot of that goes back to political willingness, right? I think that social housing, as we've described it, is objectively without question a long-term project. We should have built dozens of thousands of units years ago, and there's just no way to make up for that - even - there's just no way to do that by tomorrow, by next year, we've just made up that huge gap. But we have to start today. And even if - I don't think it's not going to pass, but say this doesn't pass - House Our Neighbors is dedicated to doing something this year then to make sure it happens - because this is a long-term project. This is a movement to stop displacing people. It's a movement to say that housing should be affordable to everybody, not just people who can afford to move here with a degree that grants you access. And so I think that it can happen pretty quickly - once it's set up, you have a team working on finding buildings to acquire, finding sources of funding. One of the things Camille didn't mention that I think will probably make leftists a little prickly, but I personally don't care, is that we could go after - this PDA could go after private donations, right? There's nothing stopping them from getting money from anybody who wants to provide those funds in order to start acquiring buildings and getting them into position to be part of the social housing network. And so I think that if we have councilmembers and we have a mayor who's interested, there's nothing stopping us from dumping money into this and just buying up - as every unit that comes onto the market - making sure everybody's part of this, getting people - I don't know the word for "grandfathered in" is - but really turning our housing market around and getting these units off of the private market so that they can actually be owned forever by the City. I think that that just depends who's in office and who has the interest.

And aside from all of the electoral power that I think people have - people power - how are we going to press people, once this is passed, to make sure that they're enacting it, that they're taking this seriously, that they put the right people on the board who are going to make sure that we're acquiring buildings quickly, making sure that we are buying buildings quickly, making sure that we have a financial advisor on that board who's going to be making bold decisions about what we can use our funds on. So there is no real answer to how this acts on its own. It is all going to be up to - what are elected officials willing to do? And when they don't do it, what are the people in the City willing to do to make them do it?

[00:32:51] Crystal Fincher: And that raises a big question. You talk about building political will - obviously, passing policy on the ballot is a significant undertaking. So what is the plan to actually communicate with the 150,000-200,000 people it's going to take to pass this, especially on a February ballot?

[00:33:15] Tye Reed: Luckily, the one thing we've encountered is that most people are on board. If you're talking about our Field team that's out canvassing and tabling - door knocking and all that stuff - a lot of people, once they've heard of it, are on board. I think a lot of people recognize that we are in a housing crisis and the City hasn't done anything to relieve it at all. So a lot of it has just been having conversations with people and talking to them about what their rent is and how things could be different. So getting people going - we've just had a really extensive field operation that started all the way in January, or basically - when did we file, March or whatever of last year - building that movement up. When we first launched ourselves, nobody really knew what we were doing or what we were talking about. And in the year that we've been working on this - two rounds of gathering signatures, hiring staff in order to make this operation go - we've been talking to more and more people, we're reaching out to more groups, getting more folks involved. And so - like I said before about this being like a movement, this is not just one thing that House Our Neighbors is working on and this isn't just one thing, one initiative that will be passed. It's about having conversations about - how do we make this city affordable through taxes, through rezoning, through minimum wage increases - whatever that might look like - we need to all be engaging in that conversation and working on it politically. And so House Our Neighbors and this initiative has started that conversation for a lot of people and propelled it for a lot of people who are already involved.

And so I think we've seen an increase in interest in this initiative, especially from people outside of the state who are really interested in making this happen. People want this to happen in other states and other cities because this is not unique to Seattle - no matter what people will tell you, this is happening nationwide. And so hitting up doors, talking to people in person - we have a lot of partners from different unions and organizations who have been putting their people on the streets with us and having conversations, putting our word in their newsletter. A lot of it has gone really far in order to educate, and most people - they hear about it - are not a No. So I'm sure we'll get some No votes, but I don't think it's going to be the hardest fight Seattle's ever seen for sure.

[00:35:27] Crystal Fincher: Do you have anything to add to that, Camille?

[00:35:29] Camille Gix: I think Tye did a great job at summing it up. And I think one of our volunteers said a few weeks ago after a canvass is - not a lot of people know about the initiative relative to the city population, but every person that we talk to about it - the vast majority, 90+% - are very enthusiastic about it when they hear about it. I know one of our field organizers was out yesterday and came across one of the first sort of tough conversations that he's had to do on this campaign. I was talking to some folks who are maybe a bit skeptical and - but after that door knock and that conversation, they both ended up signing pledge cards to pledge - they pledged to vote Yes on the initiative. And we definitely have skeptics out there, but I think that the enthusiasts far outweigh the skepticism.

[00:36:25] Crystal Fincher: That makes sense. So are you looking at primarily continuing the field plan through the campaign? Is there also a communications plan happening? How does that look?

[00:36:36] Tye Reed: Yeah. I'm sure Camille will talk about that - Camille is very involved on the communications side. Yeah, the Field team is going strong. We have a launch coming up, actually, in three days. I don't know all the locations - Camille, you made the graphics, you probably do. We've got five or six locations that we're going to launch at to do a big canvass with different partners across the city. I think most - maybe if not all districts - most districts throughout the city to have that big Get Out The Vote launch. But we have been campaigning for weeks, right? We've been doing that for a long time already. And so there is a huge communications plan - we've gotten new flyers, we're working with a new graphic designer to create door knockers - which I'd never worked on a campaign that had door knockers, they're actually really cool - we have window signs, we're talking about yard signs. So that thing that Camille said about most people not knowing and - but when they find out they're supportive - our biggest campaign, other than going door to door, because that's only - that's limited to some degree - is making sure that people know about us on social media and through ads in different ways.

[00:37:42] Crystal Fincher: And did you want to add to that, Camille?

[00:37:44] Camille Gix: Yeah. Our biggest mission is - through our field and communications plan - is to raise awareness. That's our biggest task. The persuasion part has not been too difficult - there's not a lot to be persuaded on - people understand the crisis that we're in and people feel it personally. We have so many people who have told us their stories throughout this campaign of their - the rent gouging and being priced out of the city. And so the persuasion part is not our biggest issue. It's just raising awareness. And so we've got lots of really wonderful endorsers who are helping to write op-eds and send out mailers. And I think - yeah, we've got these different work groups of field and communications that's really just hoping to raise the awareness component of this initiative.

[00:38:33] Crystal Fincher: All right. And if people want to learn more or get involved with the initiative, how can they do that?

[00:38:39] Tye Reed: Volunteer! Go to, get involved. Like we said, we have canvasses and tables, but we also have lower key things like communications, which Camille does a lot of. There are so many things that House Our Neighbors is involved in and ways that people can plug in. We deliberately designed it that way so that folks who cannot canvass, who cannot do traditional campaigning, are able to be involved. So if you like phone banking, text banking, data entry, fiddling around improving our website - like whatever it is that you think you want to do to actually contribute to this movement, this growing movement of people fighting for social housing, fighting for housing affordability - you can participate, right? You can reach out. If it isn't something we're currently doing that meets your needs, we'll figure out some way to start doing that thing. And so I would say - a lot of the volunteers that we've had have actually become paid staff members because we are so deeply invested in working closely with our volunteers and hopefully maintaining this group of volunteers throughout the campaigns that House Our Neighbors does. So I would say go to I think there's a Get Involved button that you can click on, sign up for newsletters, even if you're not interested in getting involved because we're gonna need to be reaching out to people and communicating a lot. So definitely go to the website.

[00:39:52] Crystal Fincher: All right. So thank you so much - to both you Tye, and you Camille - for joining us today. And we'll continue to follow this as it proceeds through its February election.

[00:40:04] Camille Gix: Thank you so much for having us.

[00:40:05] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is co-produced by Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.