In September the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) proposed the “Stepping Forward” program, which would escalate rents over a six year period for work-abled tenants utilizing vouchers or living in SHA public housing developments. Work- abled defined as a resident between the ages of 24-61 that does not have a disability which prevents the individual from working. During the rent escalation period the work-abled tenenats would recieve job training and opportunities to higher wage jobs. The program is aimed to elimate those who do not seek higher pay because it would mean they would no longer be able to live in affordable housing and be forced out on to the street again because of a serious lack in lower middle income housing especially in areas such as Seattle. Furthermore SHA as a government entity is facing many challenges as rents rise and revenue decrease. As a department they serve about 29,000 residents but there are still thousands more on waiting lists.
All things considered the Stepping Forward program seems to be an innovative tool for work-abled residents to gain access to better jobs and better dwellings while in the safety net of SHA housing. The program could also potentially open up spaces in SHA at a quicker rate for other families who could utilize the SHA housing services.
While I pointed out the positives the rent escalations, can instil a sense of fear on the many that rely on the stability of low income housing in an unstable job market. This could be the main reason the project is now on hold after a very heated community meeting in late September. Watch here.
The halt on Stepping Forward is a good example of an innovative idea that is not easily translated to the larger community. If more community members are involved at earlier stages of program creation then we could start to see more support because there is ownership within the community.