Is the Office of Housing really KNOWINGLY concentrating extreme poverty in one area of Delridge? New documents show this may be true

It appears that this project DOES NOT meet the siting policy as Rick Hooper stated at the Delridge community forum. (Did the Office of Housing describe this truthfully at the public forum? I need to check the film footage.) A waiver has been granted, based on the potential construction of additional first-time homebuyer units by the Seattle Housing Authority. Did you get that? There may be some houses built in the future that would mean that this project complies, but at the moment it DOES NOT meet the siting policy.

This does not even factor in the census data that indicates that the Office of Housing is NOT COUNTING significant numbers of extremely low-income households in their assessment of this site. To recap the highlights of census data:

  • 31.6% of households earn below $20,000
  • Over 50% of the households earning less than $20,000 are paying more than 35% of their income for rent, and thus do not appear to be in subsidized housing

I welcome data that shows this website is wrong, but I suspect that it doesn’t exist. The lack of a real answer from the Office of Housing makes me suspect that the data cannot be disproved. They are hoping that we all just give up and resign ourselves to the concentration of extreme poverty in one small area of an otherwise fairly wealthy city.

I understand that the City of Seattle desperately needs more housing for homeless people. But I find it hard to believe that this particular project is the best use of $14.5 million of taxpayer money for housing people. We have a responsibility to hold our public agents accountable for their decisions. Good intentions do not make this a good project.

Questions for the Office of Housing:

  1. Can you provide further demographic information to disprove the apparent concentration of extreme poverty in this one area of Delridge?
  2. Why have you provided “up to $4.45 million” for this project, when only $1.3 million was requested?
  3. How common is it to waive the requirements of the siting policy? Has it been done before, and if so, how many times? Has it been done for other DESC projects?
  4. It appears that the Office of Housing has also approved a bridge loan of $769,000 for purchase of the site by December 1, 2011. Can the Office of Housing provide a copy of the bridge loan documents that are currently being prepared?

For any concerned citizens reading this post, note that time is of the essence. The property is being purchased THIS MONTH. Now is the time to raise questions, before any more money is spent on a poorly conceived project. Sometimes mistakes are made, but it’s easier and cheaper to fix mistakes earlier rather than later. We need to save our valuable public money for a project that makes sense.

If you want to read the information for yourself, the Delridge Community Forum website has posted the funding application that contains the waiver letter. You can find it in the Part 3 of the DESC Application for State Funding, pages 137-146. Also an email from the Seattle Housing Authority on page 156 that describes the possibility of additional homes being built in the future.

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11 responses to “Is the Office of Housing really KNOWINGLY concentrating extreme poverty in one area of Delridge? New documents show this may be true

  1. Karrie Kohlhaas

    DelridgeNeighbor,

    You have certainly done your homework. I was up until 2am last night reading and deciphering all of the documents in the state funding application, some of which you refer to above.

    For those who will not take the time to read the hundreds of pages in DESC’s funding application, I can attest that I read with my own eyes that what delridgeneighbor posted above is documented and factual.

    Neighbors have not been off base in questioning this project based on poverty levels, despite the fact some have been trying to disqualify these concerns.

    2010 Census numbers do reveal that the current poverty dispersal in the census block group does NOT allow for DESC to build their project and to stay within the requirements for poverty dispersal. The DESC project “would exceed the current Siting Policy guidelines by 12 units. As a result, DESC is seeking a Siting Policy waiver from OH (Office of Housing).” (DESC State Funding Application, Part 3, page 139)

    “The Siting Policy allows the Office of Housing Director (Rick Hooper) to grant a waiver under a few conditions.
    1. The proposed project is a neighborhood-supported project, or
    2. Additional market-rate housing development is planned in the Census block, and OH determines that the proposed project would not result in more than 20% of total housing units in the block group being subsidized for extremely low-income households, or
    3. OH determines natural or manmade barriers physically separate the proposed project from existing concentrations of subsidized rental housing for extremely low-income households.”

    The waiver was granted on the 2nd criteron that SHA plans to build more market rate housing in coming years in High Point. Some background is also referred to, stating that when DESC first requested info. about poverty dispersal that the old census records showed they could build the project. It should not matter that it is inconvenient to DESC that when they first requested this information they were working with census data that was 10 years old. That should not be cited as justification in addition to housing in Hight Point that has yet to be built.

    But the facts remain that ON THE GROUND in this community, there is, as of CURRENT census data, more “extreme poverty” than should be concentrated in a single area–an area currently lacking all basic amenities to support this population. Our neighborhood is an example of precisely why the Dispersal Policy is in place.

    It is concerning that Rick Hooper* alone can rubber stamp a “Waiver of Dispersion Policy” without any public process, no community input, no on-the-ground studies, no oversight of his actions.

    There is likely a process for contesting a waiver of this sort. Will you look into that delridgeneighbor? Maybe offer some actions people can take?

    There has also been a serious lack of transparency and openness on this project. To name a few instances because they are too many to go into here…

    1. Neighbors have been requesting information that has not been forthcoming.
    2. Someone had to pull a Public Records Request to get the data we are both referring to here. Much of the information in these docs is information I have or my neighbors have requested from DESC or public officials and have been told they didn’t have that data or didn’t know for sure. Yet, in these records I see dates pre-dating those requests.
    3. OH Director Rick Hooper has not responded to neighbors’ requests for information, ignoring calls & emails.
    4. Additionally, OH Director Rick Hooper recently granted DESC “up to $4.5M” of city funding just 2 weeks after he gave neighbors–including me–his word that he “would not make the decision for 4-5 weeks.”

    It seems that Hooper in particular has repeatedly taken actions that may not be in the best interest of this community and at the same time seems to be intentionally keeping the community in the dark about facts and the process. FYI: Hooper is also a voting member of the JRC for county funding which will vote on over 500K funding for this project on Nov. 17th at Mercer Island Community Center at 930am.

  2. This is alarming information.

    I feel like I have been lied to several times by the City and DESC. This situation is exactly why there are guidelines.

    When the person overseeing the rules, Mr. Hooper, is given ultimate power, the checks and balances don’t really matter any more.

  3. How many of the 80 planned SHA units will be under 30% the MI.

  4. I meant to add a ‘?’

  5. Where is the mayor on this issue? Also I think the Times or tv media should begin an investigation of this issue.

  6. Thank you, concerned Delridge neighbor for putting all of this together, and everyone else for voicing your concerns. I have high hopes that, with a combined effort of local residents, truth and reason will prevail and this project will not move ahead. Keep it up!

  7. Karrie Kohlhaas

    Anon,

    DESC seems to be closely allied with many officials. Some have vehemently supported DESC when confronted with neighborhood concerns about whether or not this project is being placed appropriately in a neighborhood with no basic amenities in walking distance, isolation by topography and transit, etc.

    The Mayor, City Council, and others are in support of the project to end homelessness and likely would not get involved because of that commitment and how it might look for their careers (that they were not supporting the homeless).

    Understandably, this project brings up issues beyond housing the homeless. I have heard these phrases used in reference to this project and the officials involved in passing funding for it: lack of transparency, misleading the community, disregarding facts, ignoring community input, contradictions in public statements, withholding information, etc.

    I agree with you and have been hearing from many people who concur that there is a big story here. The problem is that in this day and age, most media outlets do not take the time to sift through details, documents and facts to really understand what the issues are. For expediency and a quick media blitz, most will splash “NIMBY” across their headline and move on to the next hot story of the day. The Stranger has done this repeatedly. Ironically, there is a MUCH bigger story here and a solid reporter who is willing to sink some time into it could even end up with a national story.

    As many have said, the days of true investigative reporting are over. If you know someone who could really do this story justice and not reduce it to something it’s not, that would be great. I think Tracy Record at the WSBlog is doing her best to report fairly on this topic but that only reaches so many readers.

  8. Last month, 147,000 homes/businesses read WSB at least once. That’s a larger audience than some of the citywide organizations. Just FYI, since I’m not sure what “only reaches so many readers” is suggesting. Among those readers are the regional TV and print operations, multiple times daily. (That’s not anecdotal, that’s from our logs, and from the myriad stories they’ve picked up.) They’ve seen this, they’ve heard about this, and if they were interested, they likely would have long since jumped on it by now. TV reporters are almost entirely generalists (as am I) and unless you organize an actual event (picketing, let’s say), your chances of drawing that medium’s attention are almost nonexistent. Re: the Times, if you can find someone on a beat resembling housing/human services/social justice, you would want to contact that person directly. We’ve worked with them informally for two years and I still don’t know their org chart, but clearly somebody involved with this has great research skills so I’m sure you can figure out who that is.

  9. Occupy Delridge!

  10. Karrie Kohlhaas

    Tracy, it’s good to know these numbers. I definitely view the WSBlog as the go-to news source for West Seattle. I didn’t realize how many outside the peninsula were readers of what many here refer to as “The Blog”. Good to know so many news sources are getting this info. through your site.

  11. Has anyone requested emails between the office of housing and DESC? The timing, variances, and funding make it seem like there was a lot of prior discussion before involving community members.

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