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'Social housing' initiative to go before Seattle voters in special election

'Social housing' initiative to go before Seattle voters in special election 01:56

SEATTLE - A bold plan to create more affordable housing will be at the center of an upcoming special election.

Initiative 135 (I-135) will be on the ballot next February. If approved, the City of Seattle would hire a public developer to create permanently affordable housing, and evaluate whether more should be built on land the city considers selling.

"This is an innovative strategy that has proven to be successful in lots of other cities around the world," said Solid Ground CEO Shalimar Gonzales. The organization is one of more than 70 endorsing I-135.

"We want every single person in our community to be housed in the way that which they want to be housed, and if this allows for there to be more of those housing options available, by all means," Gonzales said.

According to organizers, the public developer's projects wouldn't be funded by tax dollars. Instead, the agency would rely on bonds and rent payments that aren't influenced by market value.

"Cost of living always continues to go up, and so if we're not keeping pace with that, with the number of folks that are living in our city, with the number of folks that want to live in this city... it'll continue to be unaffordable for the vast majority of the residents that live here," said Gonzales.

Before a unanimous vote to send I-135 to the ballot, a number of people called into Tuesday night's Seattle City Council meeting, expressing their support for the proposal.

"I would like to house our neighbors, and house the most vulnerable people in our community," one caller said. Another told councilmembers, "I think that's important for our diversity as a city, and I think it's a completely ethical, and the morally right thing to do."

Gonzales views I-135 as another potential option in the struggle to make Seattle more affordable.

"We just need more housing, and so this is just another tool that is at our disposal that we can use to build more housing." Gonzales continued, "as endorsers of this particular initiative, I think we definitely have our work cut out for us to make sure that people are aware this is on the ballot."

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