June 23, 2021
Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee
Seattle City Council
600 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Re: CB 120081
Dear Chair Strauss and Members of the Committee:
My name is Michael Ramos and I serve as Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. The Church Council of Greater Seattle has engaged congregations and people of faith in Seattle toward the common good and a more just society since 1919. Over the last forty years, our churches have served the city by providing an array of social services and ministries at the intersection of homelessness and affordable housing as part of our mission to love our neighbors as ourselves. Currently, I serve on the Affordable Housing Committee for King County. Unfortunately, the single-room occupancy hotels in which I placed Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees in the early 1980s no longer exist. We have long asked the city to do more to provide redress for the gentrification and displacement that have particularly impacted communities of color.
On behalf of our faith communities discerning stewardship of their properties which could add to the mix of low-income housing in our city, I thank you for considering this legislation as a locally-tailored response to HB 1377, for which we advocated at the state legislature. A path that allows for more viable housing development and more units honors the hopes of faith communities to house the unhoused and create homes so that all our residents can thrive.
Our churches need greater flexibility in order to execute faithfully on our vision for maximum contribution to the stock of affordable housing. The proposed amendments, while well meaning, will severely affect the ability of congregations to be able to develop housing successfully on the land they own and occupy. Churches need to partner in order for their projects to become a reality. Narrower owning and controlling language will mean congregations will not be able to take advantage of the density bonus. Extending the time frame for guaranteed affordability from 50 to 75 years is a further disincentive for workable projects.
Please do not accept the proposed amendments and please delay voting on the measure until appropriate clarifying language with stakeholders can be determined. In this way, the original purpose of facilitating
faith community development of their assets can be enhanced rather than unwittingly diminished. When government is involved with faith communities, the principle of “least restrictive possible” holds; when faith communities have flexibility to develop consistent with their mission and values, the city and all who live here win.
Church Council of Greater Seattle
Photo: Michael Ramos testifies at Maple Leaf Lutheran Church in 2018
Learn more about Seattle City Council Bill 120081 here: https://seattle.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4962668&GUID=8F75189C-2896-44C9-B360-039DB6E9E39F