Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has appointed to the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) board two new commissioners who may try to block a controversial plan to raise rents for thousands of tenants.
Under the plan, called Stepping Forward, SHA would use apartment size rather than tenant income to set rents for households with at least one adult capable of working, and the rents would increase over time. It would pair the rent hikes with job counseling.
The plan would help SHA serve more tenants and generate additional revenue, Executive Director Andrew Lofton has said. SHA has about 9,000 households on its waiting list for public housing and had 24,000 households apply for just 2,000 available rent vouchers.
The seven-member SHA board will decide whether Stepping Forward is implemented. The commissioners are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council, and four commissioners have reached the end of their terms.
SHA tenants and advocates for low-income housing came out against Stepping Forward earlier this year, saying the rent increases would make many tenants homeless. They asked Murray to appoint new commissioners in favor of scuttling the plan.
In an email to council members Thursday, Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim said she was confident appointees Zachary Pullin and Jermaine Smiley “will strongly represent the mayor’s viewpoints on a number of important issues … including the Stepping Forward proposal.”
Kim’s email describes Pullin as a community organizer who grew up in public housing and Smiley as a “labor voice” who once served on an SHA committee tasked with helping disadvantaged workers gain access to construction jobs.
Pullin’s LinkedIn page says he works at SEIU Training Partnership. Smiley’s page says he works at Laborers’ Local 242.
The mayor still needs to fill two board positions reserved for SHA residents. He’ll fill one position by reappointing a current commissioner, Kim’s email says.
A group of tenants plan to march to the SHA’s Monday board meeting, accompanied by a marching band, to protest Stepping Forward.