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Green New Deal For Social Housing

Housing for all, and healthy climate resilient futures: Together with House Our Neighbors, we're organizing to win permanently affordable, publicly owned green social housing that's good for the planet and good for our communities!

Housing is a human right, and it’s also a powerful Green New Deal solution.

To address the overlapping housing and climate emergencies, we need solutions that are truly intersectional. So we’re joining forces with House Our Neighbors (HON) to pass Initiative 137 (I-137) — a ballot measure that would tax the city’s biggest corporations to fund green social housing for Seattle

In 2023, and thanks to HON’s I-135 campaign, Seattle voted to create the Seattle Social Housing Developer (SSHD) — a huge victory and a major step towards alleviating Seattle’s growing housing crisis.

Housing built by the SSHD would uphold the four pillars of social housing: 

  1. Publicly owned
  2. Permanently affordable
  3. Cross-class communities 
  4. Resident leadership. 

Well-connected, mixed-income and working-class neighborhoods near public transit, rooted by public housing, are key to building a low-carbon and eventually no-carbon city. 

Can you imagine a Seattle where our basic rights to stay housed and healthy are met, all while building a beautiful green future with clean air and thriving communities?

That’s what I-137 and social housing would do!

All housing built by the SSHD would be to the highest climate standards known as Passive House! (See below for more on Passive House). Adding green social housing would build community safety and resilience, nurture community connections, and in the process create thousands of good, union jobs — all while combating the climate crisis by reducing emissions! Keeping people housed and rooted prevents displacement which is a huge source of emissions, as is urban sprawl! 

If we win I-137, we could see the start of beautiful, low-carbon, affordable social housing in our city. Together we need to make sure we pass the social housing payroll tax so we can build green social housing for a vibrant and resilient Seattle! 

Our Theory of Change

Our past Green New Deal campaigns have shown us that when we build vibrant grassroots support, work in a cross-movement coalition and activate our communities for climate justice, we are powerful enough to WIN transformative systems change.

Since 2019, our Green New Deal team has been organizing to win investments that reduce climate pollution and meet the everyday needs of our communities. Since then, we’ve won clean energy and climate resilience upgrades to Seattle’s community centers and public schools so that they get off fossil fuels, operate with clean air, and serve as cooling hubs to keep us safe during heat waves and wildfire smoke. All while creating good, green jobs for our communities! 

We could not have won any of this without people like yourself getting involved! Sign up to get involved in our campaign to win green social housing!

Housing Justice is Climate Justice

We are in the midst of a serious housing affordability crisis in Seattle, which is deeply linked to climate change — displacement, urban sprawl and buildings are huge sources of emissions. Meanwhile, Seattle’s population is expected to grow by approximately 240,000 by 2044. The City at present does not have a plan to meet those needs. And with costs exploding, the housing crisis poses a threat to basic well-being alongside other inequities like low-wages. All of which disproportionately burden frontline communities of color. 

Our city urgently needs more housing of all types if we are to tackle the overlapping housing and climate emergencies. Everyone deserves to have a safe, affordable place to call home without fear of displacement. And as we confront increasingly frequent summers with extreme heat and wildlife smoke, our communities deserve to stay housed, healthy and resilient. Affordability, stable rent, and reducing energy burdens are all crucial to keeping people in their homes and building economic and climate resilience. 

I-137 is a step in the right direction for our communities and our climate. Will you join us and help us win I-137?


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is I-137?

I-137 would fund the Seattle Social Housing Developer (created by I-135) through the creation of an excess compensation payroll tax. If an employer compensates an employee over a million dollars annually, they will pay a 4-7% surtax on all compensation above a million dollars, including stock grants, deferred compensation, and bonuses. 

I-137 is estimated to generate roughly $52 million annually with 2000 social housing units created in the first 10 years through new construction and acquisition. And this is likely an underestimate. This tax would start collecting in 2025. 

Ultimately the SSHD will decide how it will spend this revenue annually. The SSHD can use these funds to build and acquire social housing, fund operations and maintenance of buildings, and staff up the SSHD. Housing owned by SSHD would be publicly owned and permanently affordable, built to passive house standards, with residents paying no more than 30% of their monthly income on rent. 

What is Passive House?

Passive House is an energy-efficiency performance standard for a building. So passive house buildings are highly energy efficient, and resilient. These building are built using five building-science principles of design: 

  1. Proper Insulation 
  2. No Air Leakage (Air tight)
  3. Balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation
  4. High-performance windows and doors
  5. Minimal space conditioning system

Environmental Benefits of Passive House:

  • Passive houses use 40-60% less energy overall. Typical-sized homes can be heated with the amount of energy a hair dryer uses.
  • They use less energy through insulation, balanced windows, and ventilation that filters air but maintains the indoor temperature.
  • They maintain internal temperatures better during power outages. That’s important during extreme weather, which is becoming increasingly common.
  • Social housing has better access to public transit and walkable streets, which reduces emissions from transportation.

In other words, taken together, these standards mean super energy efficient homes with clean air and filtration, and heating and cooling capacity. Passive houses use less energy, which means lower energy bills for you and me! Check out this article and the video below to learn more.

What is Social Housing?

Social housing is removed from the private market and the profit motive, available to all incomes, permanently affordable and held as a public good in perpetuity. I-137 funded the Seattle Social Housing Developer, which was based on the proven social housing models of Singapore, Vienna, Montgomery County Maryland, New Zealand, France, and many more.

This video from House Our Neighbors explains how social housing is paid for.

What is the Seattle Social Housing Developer?

I-135 created the Seattle Social Housing Developer — a public development authority that will build, acquire and manage social housing in Seattle. I-135 also created the 13-member Board. The public development authority’s board is made up of a majority of renters and is required to build new housing to ultra-green passive house standards.

Can we trust the Seattle Social Housing Developer?

Yes! The public development authority’s board is made up of a majority of renters, and represents a wide array of experience and knowledge — from lived experience of housing instability to public finance and labor. The board was picked by a number of different groups throughout Seattle like the City Council, the nonprofit group El Centro de la Raza, the city’s Renters’ Commission and the Green New Deal Oversight Committee. 

Also see Let’s Build Social Housing Campaign FAQ page

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