Why we oppose the Seattle Housing Authority's "Stepping Forward" proposal

Today Working Washington wrote to the Executive Director of the Seattle Housing Authority, expressing opposition to their "Stepping Forward" proposal.


Andrew Lofton, Executive Director
Seattle Housing Authority

Dear Mr. Lofton:

I am writing on behalf of Working Washington to join the overwhelming consensus in opposition to the Seattle Housing Authority’s “Stepping Forward” proposal. By increasing rents far faster than wages can reasonably be expected to rise, this proposal would undermine the fundamental promise of affordable housing — that it be affordable. At a time when Seattle is experiencing a growing housing crisis, Stepping Forward would effectively eliminate access to affordable homes for some of the poorest people in our city. And it would especially threaten the stability of the many immigrant and single-parent households currently served by SHA.

Jason Harvey, a leader with Working Washington, is just one example of someone whose housing stability would be fundamentally disrupted by SHA's Stepping Forward proposal. Jason works at Burger King and has lived in affordable housing in Ballard for more than 10 years. Over the next few years, his income will rise from $9.32/hour to $15/hour. This remarkable 60% pay increase comes in large part due to the bravery and leadership of hundreds of fast food workers who went on strike and sparked the $15 movement — including Jason himself. 

And yet even if he were offered full-time hours — which is exceedingly rare in food service and other low-wage jobs — his pay increase is still not nearly enough to keep pace with the Stepping Forward guidelines. In fact, by your own figures, Stepping Forward would require a full-time income of up to $19/hour in just a few years. 

At Working Washington we speak with poverty wage workers every day. And contrary to what seems to be the premise of the Stepping Forward program, workers like Jason don't desire to remain living in subsidized housing and relying on food banks. They very much want the dignity of being able to support themselves and contribute to the economy. But the job market and the economy don't always cooperate — especially in the aftermath of the Great Recession. 

Career assistance, language skills, and job training, while welcome, are simply not enough at a time when the fastest growing jobs in our economy are jobs like food service, hospitality, and home care that pay poverty wages. Nor does this even begin to address all the barriers faced by immigrants and refugees, or by single parents, who have difficult schedules and face substantial childcare costs.

From the spirited protests at the SHA public hearings, it is clear that tenants are opposed to Stepping Forward. The opposition of the Mayor and Seattle City Council shows the plan has no political support either. We join that chorus and urge you to listen to the tenants and the people of Seattle and withdraw Stepping Forward from consideration.

Sejal Parikh, Working Washington