Seattle Displacement Coalition
"We will never compromise away the rights of low income people and the homeless"
The Seattle Displacement Coalition is a 26 year-old region-wide low income housing organization, made up of low
income residents, the homeless, and representatives of social service, church, civil rights, women's, and community-based organizations. It is a volunteer community organization with a staff of 1-3 people depending on its current funding and current activities. The Coalition was created to provide a forum for affected people and their supporters to call for preservation and expansion of low income housing and other measures that ensure a fairer distribution of economic and political resources in the Seattle/King County area. The Coalition has a long track record of building successful campaigns around winnable low income housing legislation and it has successfully represented and built leadership and participation among groups of low income tenants, and the homeless challenging developer/city actions that threaten those communities.
The Seattle Displacement Coalition works with low income and homeless people - and people at risk of becoming homeless - of all racial, age, and economic backgrounds. Through direct action strategies, we organize affected people around real objectives that will make a difference in people's everyday lives while developing a capacity among these groups to move on to larger system-redefining objectives. We also link the activity of affected groups to the activities of a broader area-wide coalition that includes church, civil rights, community, and labor organizations that supports not dominates a homeless and low income agenda.
1. Housing Issues Campaign designed to prevent the continuing loss of low income housing in our city to demolition, abandonment, conversion, speculative sale and increased rents: This initiative is designed to focus the work of housing and homeless organizations, and homeless and low income people themselves, around winnable legislative objectives, by broadly publicizing the need for a renewed housing movement through publication of regular e-mail bulletins ,and then directing that energy and participation into a campaign to secure housing reforms in Seattle.
A Right of First Refusal Law would give tenants in low income housing the right to form their own non-profit or link up with an existing non-profit and buy the apartments they are renting if that housing is slated for demolition or speculative sale. These tenants also would be given access to public funds needed to assist them in that purchase so their buildings could be converted into cooperatives, land trusts, or other forms of permanent low income housing. Click here for a copy of our proposed right of first refusal law.
City Council Resolution Creating a Task Force to Assess Displacement now occurring in our neighborhoods. The 15 member task force appointed by the head of the Council's Housing Committee and staffed by the Office of Housing would have six months to assess the problem, compile data, and come up with a set of legislative recommendations for Council adoption before the Council moves forward with the Mayor's plans for significant upzones of several neighborhoods in the City. We must have housing preservation mechanisms in place before any further changes in zoning occur that would only accelerate the loss of low income housing in our city. See above headline for more information or click here to jump to another web page for more information on our anti-displacement resolution.
2. “Homeless Civil Rights Organizing”: a continuance of our campaign to build participation among homeless people of all ages around the goal of turning back laws and local government actions that threaten the civil rights of the homeless, and to link that participation with active support from civil rights, church, community, and labor groups. . We aim to redirect public policy back towards provision of housing, jobs, and services rather than jails for the homeless. Measures implemented during the Sidran/Pageler era at City Hall that must be overturned include the "no-sitting law", pedestrian interference law, car impound law, use of trespass admonishments, and parks exclusion law. For information on why Mark Sidran should never be elected to public office again, let alone the position of State Attorney General, click on the box just below for a compilation of his dismal anti-homeless and anti-civil rights agenda. For more information on the specifics of each of these anti-homeless laws, click here: jump to anti-homeless laws discussion.
3. Holly Park, Rainier Vista, and Senior Housing - Holding SHA Accountable : For several years the Seattle Displacement Coalition has been engaged in a concerted effort to hold our Seattle Housing Authority accountable to its underlying mission of providing units to our City's poorest residents. In 1997, we worked to ensure 100 percent replacement of any units lost at Holly Park due to SHA's HOPE VI redevelopment of that site. Our efforts did not stop the destruction of over 400 low income public housing units but it did result in passage of a low income housing replacement plan in which SHA committed to contributing dollars towards off-site replacement of a portion of those units. We helped bring together representatives of labor, housing, and community groups and launched a campaign to challenge SHA’s plans at Rainier Vista as well - another HOPE VI project that will result in the loss of 170 public housing units. As a result of a lawsuit we filed against that project (joining Friends of Rainier Vista and tenants represented by Columbia Legal Services and the NW Justice Project), we were able to force SHA to solidify an off-site replacement plan and secured commitments from them to undertake efforts to avoid loss of low income public housing at Yesler Terrace when they launch redevelopment plans at that 550 unit site. We also won a commitment to rollback rent increases on the 1000 unit Senior Housing Bond Program(SSHP) and to look at alternatives to that policy. The result was a permanent rollback of the rent increase for low income seniors the program coupled with more modest increases over time on higher income residents living in SSHP units. We also organized residents of this program so that now in each building under this program, there are representives who participate in a resident based organization made up of program residents. This group the SSHP Advocates have a board and are not effectively representing their own interests.
We will continue to monitor SHA’s compliance with its housing replacement obligations at each of its HOPE VI projects (where over 1000 public housing units were torn down). We will seek to redirect SHA projects like its current plans for the 550 unit Yesler Terrace Public Housing Project that would cause the loss of additional low income units, and instead promote alternatives that ensure "no net loss" of existing public housing. Due to federal budget cuts and regulatory changes, housing authorities across the country are dismantling their low income housing by converting it to market rate, selling it off for market rate development, or moving to mixed income strategies rather than serving those most in need. By maintaining a broad coalition of church leaders, community leaders, housing advocates, social service providers, and affected people themselves, we will seek to prevent further losses of public housing here in Seattle. Five years ago, the Displacement Coalition working with a broader coalition of these groups secured passage of a state measure that restructured the Seattle Housing Authority - expanding the board, forcing more frequent review of current board appointments, and requiring city council approval of all board appointments and extension of board appointments. Also the law required that 2 of 7 members of the board now are public housing residents. It also strengthened conflict of interest language. The effect of this bill has been to force more accountability out of this agency.
4. Homeless Youth Organizing and Housing Project : In total for this project we raised over $40,000 which covered our 1996-1997 expenses. We also entered into a relationship with the Low Income Housing Institute and secured a significant Stewart McKinney Grant which paid for the purchase of a single-family home (under LIHI’s name) and that covered most operating expenses. After helping launch this effort and ensuring that it would continue, this project was split from the Coalition. It now is a task force of the Church Council and to a large degree, it retains the unique characteristics of the project that distinguished it as one of the state’s only truly “independent living” projects for homeless youth.
5. Challenging development and policy decisions that cause displacement: A key focus of ours is to challenge the misdirection of limited city resources - the city’s continued commitment to spending for downtown development and in South Lake Union at the expense resources we need for low income housing and our neighborhoods. In the past, we sued the City and filed a complaint with HUD charging misuse of federal Section 108 funds for development of a new Nordstrom store and a downtown parking garage. These were federal monies had been intended to curb blight and address low income needs. Our complaint forced changes in the Section 8 program and because of former Norm Rice's role in the deal, it cost him a cabinet position.
The Downtown Office Boom - Who Wins? Who Loses
& Why Seattle Should Not Become Another Manhattan
For more on the costs and impacts of our city's love affair with downtown development
The Coalition "Bench Project"
Click on the photo for a picture of one of the Coalition's 30 benches built by volunteers and dispersed throughout the City. It is an attempt to 1) provide a needed amenity in community business districts where cooperating merchants requested them, and 2) to make a statement against our City's "no-sitting" law approved in '92 sponsored by none other than Mark Sidran and Margaret Pageler with support of Mayor Rice. This law is an explicitly anti-homeless (and anti-city) measure that only serves to drive a deeper wedge in our community between rich and poor and black and white. The answer of course to people sitting on the sidewalk is BENCHES, not banning sitting and the more the merrier. The benches were designed and constructed of heavy duty materials weighing about 80 pounds each. Most were built 3-4 years ago and can be seen in areas like Ballard and Capitol Hill. The Bench Project also was a great community builder for our supporters and is a classic example of "direct action". For those interested in doing another bench project, give us a call or e-mail us.
Organizational Structure/Administration/Decision-Making: Established by a formal board vote in 1977. these practices have been functioning effectively since then. They are affirmed regularly through board action and identified in all of our grant applications when such information is requested.
The Seattle Displacement Coalition is composed primarily of people directly affected by the low income and homeless issues we are addressing. In addition, the Coalition draws support and volunteers from representatives of church, labor, civil liberties, community, women's, and social service organizations, and the larger residential communities. More than 500 people have attended at least two Coalition initiated activities in the past year. The active "core" of the organization is comprised of about 50-75 people who regularly participate in the on-going activities of the organization and includes people of color, people of diverse socioeconomic levels (at least 50 percent low income), and people of different ages. For every issue we address, the work of the Coalition is heavily weighted towards securing increased levels of involvement and building leadership among people who are homeless, senior citizens, and low income.
The Board of the Coalition is a standing group that varies from 10-20 people who confer regularly to set directions, undertake fundraising, and identify key issues that the Coalition will work on in any given year or month (see attached list of participants and their socioeconomic backgrounds). Decisions at these board meetings are made by a process of democratic consensus. All must agree, and if that is not possible we revert to “majority rule.” In those rare cases where we revert to majority rule, only those who have attended at least two previous board meetings may vote. Policy direction and issue selection are set at these larger boardmeetings and the activities of the subcommittees are reviewed and approved at these boardmeetings. Each subcommittee reports back to the Coalition board at meetings of the Board. It is within these subcommittees where strategies and actions are determined for that issue. Meeting times are set by participants within each subcommittee and all decisions are made by a process of democratic consensus. These committees are made up primarily of people directly affected by that issue, with staff and interested boardmembers attending and assisting in particular subcommittee activities. Staff and consultants for the Coalition function as organizers and trainers, identifying and encouraging leaders and promoting participation, sharing their skills and expertise on issues, providing the subcommittees with access to the Coalition's office space, and its copying, mailing, phone, and other office resources. Staff and consultants also assist in fundraising, and in helping to coordinate volunteer activity. Staff and Coalition boardmembers always function in a level as "co-equals". Over our 26 year history, we have not given ourselves titles other than boardmembers and participants and spokerspersons who operate within these committees, with the aim of bringing out the innate skills of all participants - especially the homeless and other low income people.
The subcommittees are given a high degree of autonomy, and as they progress with their work, if they deem it necessary, may even establish their own independent identity. When appropriate, the Displacement Coalition has encouraged this because it creates a greater sense of ownership of that effort. Over time in this way, the Coalition has generated efforts that have evolved into their own self-sustaining organizations. It also is a way for the Coalition to make very effective use of our limited resources.
The Coalition maintains one full-time "coordinator" experienced in organizing around low income housing issues in the Seattle/King County area. John Fox has coordinated numerous successful campaigns for the Displacement Coalition - campaigns that have generated self-sustaining low income organizations and produced meaningful legislation and resources to the benefit of low income people. The Coalition also has hired other employees and consultants to run aspects of its operation in the past
The volunteers, homeless participants and advocates, and organizational representatives playing a direct role in carrying out these projects/ In total, those participating in this project at an active level, carry many years of combined organizing experience and work in the community.
Seattle Displacement Coalition 4554 12th NE * Seattle * Washington * 98105 * ph: 206-632-0668 * email@example.com
Coordinator: John V. Fox