Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Seattle Housing Authority

The Seattle Housing Authority is "a public corporation that provides affordable housing to more than 25,500 people who earn less than 80 percent of Seattle's median income." At their website they are eager to tell you that their mission "is to enhance the Seattle community by creating and sustaining decent, safe and affordable living environments that foster stability and self-sufficiency for people with low incomes."

The Seattle Housing Authority acted as the "master builder" in the construction of the neighborhood now known as New Holly. New Holly used to be known as Holly Park, as crime-ridden and run-down a section of public housing as e'er was known in Seattle. New Holly, they're proud to trumpet to the world, is an "award winning" redevelopment project, a federally funded Hope VI project. The community is "unique" and "model for the rest of the nation to follow".

Pramas and I were among the first lucky families to buy into Phase One. When we bought in, our Home Owner's Association was controlled by members of the SHA. That continued until sometime this year. The SHA owns the housing that is side-by-side with individual homeowners and rented out to Section 8 tenants. Before we ever bought our house, the builders had in place covenants for a mandatory Home Owner's Association (the management of which I have railed on about in this blog at length in the past). The items of "concern" to the "homeowners" were laid out by the SHA (such as what colors we're allowed to paint our porch steps or how our bushes need to be maintained or the ban on clotheslines, garden sheds and dog houses). Whether those things are actually "of concern" the the majority of homeowners in this community is something I would question, especially when we have issues with graffiti, reckless youths, and brazen drug and alcohol use in the parks we've set aside and pay to maintain (in theory for the community's children). It was the SHA-controlled board that knowingly enticed people into the community by setting initial HOA dues unsustainably low and led our community into a several-year "budget shortfall" that had to be made up with a special assessment, among other things.

Of course, the number of homeowners needed to pass *any* resolution (or, indeed, to even legally vote in our homeowner-controlled board of directors) is so outrageously high that it's virtually impossible to get the community to make any changes. For the better part of this year we were ham-strung by poor homeowner voter turnout and couldn't even get the SHA's minions OFF the board! It seems that we've FINALLY gotten actual homeowners in control of the board. I was already irritated about their treatment of the neighbor who wanted to open the wine bar in the commercial building the SHA owns, which I blogged about around Christmas, and I can't say I'm unhappy to see the SHA's employees OFF the board at this stage.

One might wonder why I'm going into the entire preamble for the SHA's involvement in our community at this point. New Holly was on the news today. Thanks to a neighborhood mailing list, I was alerted to the fact (though I happened to see the mobile news van parked in the New Holly Community Center parking lot this afternoon and might have clued in that something was up anyway) and was able to tune in. What did the news have to say? Well, for starters it seems that New Holly residents are about to learn their heating systems are malfunctioning and their drinking water may be exposed to lead. Oh yeah! Woo! LEAD. Awesome! Not like we have families with small children living in these houses or anything! The new report goes on to say A June 2006 report conducted for the Seattle Housing Authority found serious problems with the heating systems of 120 units of the NewHolly Development. JUNE 2006. NINETEEN MONTHS AGO. What the news fails to draw out is that the SHA built ALL the houses in this development and sold people like me some of the houses at market price to help subsidize the rest of the development... but I'll lay money that those 120 units that were tested were all units owned by the SHA. Individual homeowners were not informed of what the SHA learned and though word is trickling out many of them still do not know!

Adding insult to injury there was a woman from the SHA who spoke to the media. Her comment? "I think they should be cautious about the systems in their homes and we will work with them through that caution." We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?! It has no meaning whatsoever. The news mentions that the SHA is facing having to replace 120 waters systems at $20K a pop... but doesn't mention that's only the units the SHA itself owns. Each of the individual homeowners are going to be on the hook for those costs if our homes are affected by this issue. In any other circumstance, the builder who used the defective materials to build our homes would be held accountable but the SHA seems to believe that they're off the hook because, despite being the "master builder" for the project, they're a public agency and are thus somehow above responsibility. Frankly, I think they're unused to having to deal with people of means who have the contacts, money, and general wherewithal to fight back! Poverty-stricken tenants are entirely at their mercy, have to abide by "tenant obligations and responsibilities" or be thrown out. HomeOWNERS, professionals who can afford houses that cost up to $450K or more, are on much more level ground; lawyers and the media are involved now and the SHA had better get their act together soon.

I wonder what the SHA commissioners will have to say.

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Anonymous Someone who knows, but isn't supposed to say Says:

I love it when you talk dirty, Nikchick. There is a blog for Hight Point as well, now. Unfortunately, the man running it is not as enlightened as you. Here is the link if you are interested.

The offensive posts are One High Point two Communities and a Hopeful Future. Some of the comments are pretty bad.

NewHolly is lucky to have you and your family. If SHA is going to make mixed income communities work, they need more people like you.

Blogger Nikchick Says:

Always nice to have you swing by for comment, mysterious benefactor! :)

Wow, that High Point Blog was something I would have no tolerance for. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to buy this house in such a good Seattle location. I am not willing to lay all the challenges facing our communities at the feet of the "low-income renters" as the High Point poster is so willing to do. And the bigotry against Muslim neighbors? Wow. Just wow.


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