About the header photo: Fox News’ Kennedy called Seattle a “socialist hellhole” in a July 12 broadcast. We wish!
This week, we’re mostly talking about housing in Seattle. Anyone that lives here knows that housing is too expensive, and that landlords and cops will take any opportunity to make you pay more for it or kick you out of it; socialists know that housing is a human right. We’ve got some stories to tell about housing, and since it’s 2017 in America, we’ve also got a story about white techbros who are secretly Nazis. Welcome to the Hellhole.
Shoeboxed In Seattle
Some will tell you that the only way to get more affordable housing in Seattle is to beseech developers to solve the housing crisis for us through tax breaks and selling off city land, and for the most part, Seattle’s political leaders have gladly acquiesced. Here’s what that gets you– a housing stock so scarce and overpriced that a 345 square foot apartment costs $1500 a month.
There’s not much more to say here, other than this is bound to get more common in Seattle as time goes on– unless we start pushing back. One way is to elect candidates that understand Seattle’s housing crisis from the perspective of renters, and the Seattle DSA has endorsed just such a candidate.
“Seizure” is an Ugly Word
If you can’t afford exorbitant rents, you might try living in your car or an RV. Bear in mind, you might return home to find out that the police have taken it, and want you to cough up hundreds of dollars to get it back. Unsurprisingly, many who live in their cars don’t have that kind of cash, and so will end up sleeping outside, while Seattle sells their home (literally) to the highest bidder.
How’re We Doing?
A task force, half-appointed by homeless encampment-sweep-happy former Mayor Ed Murray, has begun a review of rules that govern such sweeps, euphemistically defanged as Multi-departmental Administrative Rules, or MDARs. The task force has one entire year (!) to evaluate the policy’s effectiveness, which disturbingly grants wide latitude to instigating sweeps sooner than a 72 hours’ notice based upon the extenuating circumstances of a camp being declared “a hazard.” Additionally, the data sets being used to evaluate the program don’t seem to include reentry into homelessness for those accepting services.
Meanwhile, at Nickelsville Ballard, time is running out for residents, whose access to a parcel of land ends after its maximum two years’ availability in November. “We don’t have anything but our word,” says a resident and so the community has no choice but be displaced once again, after being denied two sites they were shown. Instead, they’re being pointed toward a lot, smaller than the current one, with “access issues,” a lack of space for private meetings to take place with service providers and time running out to attempt any necessary, meaningful outreach with a new neighborhood into which they’d be thrown.
Loftium says it’ll help you buy a house, but we’re not so sure
Maybe you, like most people, would like to buy a house in Seattle but don’t have a large chunk of cash lying around to put towards a down payment. Loftium, a Seattle-based startup, is trying to fix that problem, but in an insidious way.
The startup promises to provide down payment assistance for people, but only if they’re willing to rent out a room in their home on Airbnb for an extended period. The founders, Yifan Zhang and Adam Stelle, seem to think it’s exciting that this could become a standard option for coming up with a down payment; we think it’s terrifying. Airbnb has been shown time and again to be detrimental to local economies, and on a larger scale, it’s another way for capitalism to commodify a basic human need and create a self-reinforcing cycle of benefit for everyone but you. This parasitic scheme is built, and plans to profit, from the affordable housing crisis here in Seattle and elsewhere. Loftium makes money, Airbnb makes money, and you end up beholden to both companies. It all begs the question — What if housing wasn’t so astronomically expensive in the first place, and what if it was actually treated like a human right?
On top of all this, there’s one more gem: A previous company started by Zhang, Pact Inc., just settled a claim with the Federal Trade Commission for $940,000 for not paying people who used the company’s accountability app. “Consumers who used this app expected the defendants to pay them rewards when they achieved their health-related goals, and to charge them only when they did not,” said Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Unfortunately, even when consumers held up their end of the deal, Pact failed to make good on its promises.” And now this same person says she’s going to give people money for a down payment? Hmmm.
Here’s what the preceding four articles are trying to tell you to do if you live in Seattle: move.
If you don’t want to move, or can’t move because you don’t have enough money to rent a U-Haul and uproot your entire life, here’s the life Seattle can currently offer you: live in an apartment; be rent-burdened; work at Amazon 80 hours a week; cry at your desk.
If you don’t have the right degree, or “aren’t a good fit” for Amazon, you can live in your car, where the tickets fall like confetti, and you’ll be harassed by police and your fellow citizens.
If you can’t afford that, you can live outside, where you’re still subject to harassment and derision in addition to the elements, you’ll have no fixed address and so will be limited in the jobs (and pay) you can apply for, and any security or possessions you manage to cobble together will be thrown away by the police every three months.
There’s a reason the DSA’s slogan is “socialism or barbarism”.
?-Back 2 The Hellhole-?
What’s Your Excuse?
Anyone can organize their workplace, even in one of the most notoriously-exploited workforces in the United States– temporary farm workers working with visas. Fed up with poor conditions and frequent verbal abuse, they organized, stopped work, and won concessions from their employer, Larson Fruit.
In case you need a reminder that the capitalist class doesn’t care about your happiness, Larson Fruit owner Rick Larson stated “I am kind of thankful that they were able to air their concerns… No one is perfect”. Read that again– he’s kind of thankful that his workers spoke up when his managers were abusing them, because apparently, he wouldn’t have found out (or cared) otherwise. Pobody’s nerfect!
I Guess We’re Biking Now
The Madrona Venture Group, the investors that helped make Jeff Bezos’ Amazon a tax-cheat powerhouse, have released a policy timeline for when they’d prefer to see Interstate 5 limited to driverless vehicles – by 2040! Madrona thinks that Seattle can boldly lead the way in this technological integration, which would boost the market for the high-tech parts made by three firms they’ve invested in. This, of course, flies in the face of Seattle’s working class, actively displaced from city jobs to suburbs via exorbitant rents with wages that can’t keep pace. With I-5 becoming Capital’s own highway, they’d have the rest of us idling in surface streets. They’d let us drive on it during weekends and nights, though.
Seattle’s Nazi Problem
David Lewis of the Stranger recently went undercover at a secret white nationalist (read: Nazi) convention, held in Queen Anne.
Why wouldn’t these Nazis want you to know who they are? It might be because they’re your co-workers and neighbors– according to Lewis, “most of the people there looked like you might run into them on Capitol Hill or in the U-District … According to my observations, the standard Seattle Nazi is a white male under 30 who either works in the tech industry or is going to school to work in the tech industry”.
The fact that they met in secret at least implies they know most people think they’re disgusting; the fact that they were able to fill a Masonic lodge is more than a little troubling. If this bothers you, maybe consider joining an organization that roundly rejects racial oppression— just saying.
Pity the CISO
The Seattle Times treated readers this week to a bizarre story on the employment tribulations of chief information security officers, or CISOs. “The job of CISO (pronounced see-so),” the Times wrote, “used to be the digital equivalent of stocking the moat around the castle with crocodiles and making sure the drawbridge functioned.” Exciting! Failure, now, is expected in this role, but, not to worry; “a shortage of experts in cybersecurity is such that landing another job is nearly assured…honestly it’s ‘good’ if you have been through a breach.” Half of the nation’s identities and financial standing may have been compromised via the Equifax breach, but we’re happy to report that it’s actually good for that executive’s employment prospects.
Class enemy of the week: Rental Housing Association of Washington
A letter from the Rental Housing Association of Washington Political Action Committee surfaced this week, and it paints a truly terrifying picture (but only if you’re bloodsucking landlord concerned with protecting your precious real estate investment).
It appears to have been sent in May of this year, and makes the case that a “rash of bad legislation was enacted against landlords in the past year.” This “bad legislation” is actually good for the rest of us, and includes protections like caps on move-in fees and the “first-in-time” requirement, which helps prevent landlord discrimination against prospective, qualified tenants. The fear-mongering continues as the letter claims Seattle’s terrifying “anti-landlord agenda” could lead to overturning the state’s ban on rent control entirely (which would be amazing). It ends with a plea for cash — of which these people have plenty — and a statement that the PAC just wants to elect candidates who “appreciate the service we provide for our community.” Barf.
A quick look at the Public Disclosure Commission reveals the PAC has raised almost $100,000, and even includes a $2,000 personal contribution from our favorite 45th Legislative District Senate candidate, Jinyoung Lee Englund.