Voter’s guide: An interview with Seattle mayor candidate Lorena González | Oct. 20-26, 2021


Real Change asked all candidates at the King County’s major races to speak to us about how they would address the housing crisis and the needs of people affected by homelessness. In this spoken interview, Seattle City Councilor Lorena González shared what she would do if she were elected mayor of Seattle. Bruce Harrell did not respond to Real Change’s request for an interview.

Real Change: One of our salespeople was concerned about the gap between elected officials and people affected by homelessness. What personal experience qualifies you to create guidelines for the unhodged community?

Lorena González: I think being vacant or unstable is really a product of poverty and income inequality in our communities, and Seattle is definitely not immune to the wealth gap and the high concentration of wealth within a very small segment of our population. But that goes for many other parts across the state and across the country as well. [I’m] someone who grew up a migrant farm worker in Washington state, where my family went every summer and lived in migrant labor camps in central Washington state. And you know, we’ve seen a lot of oppression, including wage theft, and we grew up in tremendous poverty in our hometown as well. So I think I am personally familiar with the uncertainty of living from paycheck to paycheck and making tough decisions about what to pay next to make sure you can keep paying the rent. This is a legacy that I unfortunately inherited from the intergenerational poverty in my own family, and I think that the issues of poverty and income inequality are my top priorities in the race for mayor’s office.

The Real Change advocacy group is strongly against Charter Amendment 29 because it would continue the gruesome practice of sweeping camps and evicting our homeless neighbors. Do you support Charter Amendment 29 and thus sweeps? Why or why not?

Thank you to the people at Real Change for taking a really strong and early position against Amendment 29 of the Charter. I am not in favor of Amendment 29 to the Charter. Personally, I intend to vote no on my ballot and I encourage others to do the same. [Note: After this interview was completed, Judge Catherine Schaffer ruled against allowing Charter Amendment 29 on the Nov. 2 ballot. The Court of Appeals rejected proponents’ attempt to overturn her decision.]

And the reasons are very simple, and I think we have common reasons not to support them. I – like Real Change and so many other human service providers and the Washington ACLU – really believe that it is cruel, inhuman, frankly illegal and does not work in the Seattle Constitution to adhere to a status quo policy of searches recall. We all want to see the homelessness crisis resolved. That is our number one common goal in town, and we differ on whether sweeps – which, in my opinion, are defined as moving people from one place to another without offering them adequate services or housing – is the wrong political one Direction for the city. It’s also an unfunded mandate. While the statute amendment sets these lofty goals of adding 2,000 additional accommodations or units, there is no indication of how the city should find these new sources of income without enabling the mayor to cut vital services in other areas to meet this mandate . For these reasons, I have really come to the conclusion that this is the wrong political choice for the city and I stand in solidarity with so many others who are currently against this charter change.

Would you suggest any new measures against homelessness? What would you try that we have never tried before as the crisis is mounting fast in big cities like Seattle?

I think there are things that we know work well and I think what I would try otherwise is to adequately deploy these interventions to meet the scale of needs in our community. And that was, I believe, the problem in previous governments. There was a “peanut butter approach” where we fund a little of it and a little of it, but never to the extent that the people in our communities really need.

Therefore, I am deeply committed to pursuing this human-centered, trauma-informed approach that truly funds the interventions to the extent necessary to meaningfully address the suffering of the people in our city. So we know what many of these interventions are, we know what many of them are – both on the prevention side and on the side of the long-term affordability of housing – and what I find different from my point of view is my willingness to accept it to take on the richest and largest corporations in our city to say, “It is time you paid your fair share to end these crises once and for all for the people of our city.”

One of our sellers cannot pay his rent. They have lived in the city since 1962, but rising rents have meant that they can no longer afford their current Capitol Hill apartment. What would you do to keep Seattle affordable?

This is largely related to what I just said in my previous answer, but I think there are a few things for me that are going to be really critical. For one thing, I am determined to create a 15-minute city to allow a maximum number of housing options in each individual neighborhood, including single-family house zones, which are currently strictly delimited from apartments in the city according to the most expensive and least climate-friendly type , and convert these into residential family zones, residential zones period. To say, you see, these are the areas where we humans want to live, thrive, raise their families, and have stability.

Creating these connected, livable communities is really vital, but we need to tackle these zoning laws to achieve this and we need to combine this with anti-eviction and anti-gentrification measures like creating land trust ownership opportunities, Cooperative housing, things where people come together, pool their resources and make the stability of living really important as a long-term strategy.

I’m also a big fan of social housing. We can learn a lot from many European cities that have shown us really great models of what it means to think of housing as urban infrastructure and to take housing from the public market and give it into the hands of public property in order to control more effectively. how much the rent is in these houses. This would not be a reflection on the failed public housing policy in the US in the 1970s [and] in the 60s. This would be more transformative and integrative. It would be social housing with mixed income, which would really have priority in residential areas with a high quality of stay and would really give people the opportunity to create living stability.

And the last thing I’m going to say is that we have the opportunity to look at the next house tax and increase our investment in home ownership and rental subsidies too. And that’s something I’m really proud of to stand up for on the local council by significantly increasing investment in rent subsidy, and I think that while we continue to face the eviction moratorium and the cliff that goes with it, we need to ensure that we continue to invest in rent support to prevent people from becoming homeless.

Proponents of housing justice fear that with the end of the rental moratorium, we will see a historic wave of homelessness. How will you accommodate the many Seattle residents who are behind on their rent?

Rent support, that’s so important. And you know we have some small landlords who also need mortgage assistance to avoid the temptation of an eviction, but … the key in this situation is making sure we get that much rental assistance to those who need it most need asap. And we need the federal and state governments to help us in this effort to get quick access to rental support money and put those dollars in the hands of tenants who are really going through a crisis.

Next, I’ll say that tenants laws and laws that will protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords and those who, despite having access to resources, still seek to evict the poor, will continue to be crucial as we continue to see the reality of an increase of evictions versus.

Homelessness is one of the most talked about issues in city elections. Why are people homeless in a wealthy city like Seattle, home to two of the richest men in the world?

I think it’s very easy. We have elected people in the past who are unwilling to hold companies accountable and ask them to pay their fair share to take care of those who need government support most urgently. I also think that the huge gap in wealth and income inequality is a reflection of institutionalized racism, structural racism and racism. It is no surprise that in the context you are describing, it is also true that those furthest from wealth are blacks, latinx people, and other immigrants within our community. So if you look at the data on who is rich and who is not, it is also true that people of color in our city are disproportionately represented among the poor. And that is why it is so important for me to address the system that has sustained income inequality and the inability to accumulate wealth and stability and resilience for members of the BIPOC community in our city.

Samira George tells about real people who live real lives in Puget Sound. Follow her on Twitter @samirakgeorge.

Read more in the issue from October 20th to 26th, 2021.