Washington Can’t Wait for Action on Equitable Housing and Climate Change

Tents on 4th Avenue, downtown Seattle

By Deborah Beckwin

Last January, I moved to Seattle from Florida and was disheartened by the lack of affordable housing—not only for me, but for unhoused folks.

A couple of weeks after my arrival, I was welcomed with about a foot of snow—an example of the kind of extreme weather that’s becoming more common in our region due to climate change. Although this was a temporary inconvenience and a little bit of fun for most of us, our unhoused neighbors were dealing with colder temps and a lot of snow, wet, and cold.

These two issues, climate change and a lack of affordable housing, collide and create unlivable conditions for everyone, but especially those experiencing homelessness.

As I started to venture out into Seattle, I started to see the tents and the RVs, as well as the places where unhoused folks called home, like downtown, SoDo, Ballard, and Belltown. As someone who has worked as a social worker with people who have a history of homelessness and severe mental health issues, I found it a very bewildering experience. Seattle is so wealthy and progressive. How is this happening? Why is it continuing to happen?

And then, a few months later, there was record heat in late June and wildfires. Choking smoke kept me indoors and had me purchasing an air filtration system. I was lucky to even have air conditioning.

But other people were not so lucky. Other people died—at least 13 people due to heat exposure. Our unhoused neighbors took the brunt of those unseasonably hot and smoky days.

And then, there was the recent deep freeze which brought Christmas snow and ice that didn’t melt for a week. Then the snow melted and there was yet another atmospheric river, bringing down inches of rain, causing flooding.

House Bill 1099, which came close to passing last year, would require local governments to address the impacts of climate change in their comprehensive plans by reducing vehicle miles traveled and cutting greenhouse gas emissions—offering local governments an array of options to help stem the tide of climate change.

You can look at all this and feel helpless and demoralized. It can be scary and overwhelming. But there is so much we can do to tackle our current climate emergency and to make sure that everyone is in safe and affordable housing.

One immediate thing we can do, right now, is support two pending bills in the Washington state legislature. We have a unique opportunity to shape the next 10 years and beyond and create a more equitable city and state by updating Washington’s Growth Management Act, which limits sprawl beyond city boundaries.

So let’s start with what’s already been accomplished.

Legislators passed HB 1220 in 2021, forging a way for creating more equitable housing by dismantling the racist and income-based discriminatory state housing policies that have caused people to become displaced, including our unhoused neighbors. The new law prohibits cities from banning shelter and housing for people experiencing homelessness and encourages the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), such as backyard cottages, in cities. It also requires cities with comprehensive plans, such as Seattle, to plan for more affordable housing for people at all income levels, establish anti-displacement policies, and address discriminatory and exclusionary housing rules and regulations.

But the bill was passed without funding for local governments to actually implement these important policies and transform  the goals of this bill into reality. It is also vital that the legislature provide funding for local community-based organizations to be involved in the implementation process, so the solutions contained in this bill actually come from community need and experience.

The sooner we fund this bill, the sooner we can equip governments to make equitable housing a reality for years to come. Supporters can contact their legislators and encourage them to allocate funding to turn the goals of this critical legislation into a reality.

Another bill, HB1099, focuses on making sure that Washington cities and states are preparing for our new normal: life under a climate emergency. The bill, which came close to passing last year, would require local governments to address the impacts of climate change in their comprehensive plans by reducing vehicle miles traveled and cutting greenhouse gas emissions—offering local governments an array of options to help stem the tide of climate change.

Seattle is currently rewriting its comprehensive plan, the overall blueprint for development in the region. This major update happens once a decade, so the time for urgent action on both these bills is now. The plans we make today can affect us and future Washingtonians for many years to come.

Washington cannot wait another ten years for decisive action on equitable housing and climate change action. We know that our legislature already cares for the environment—especially since HB 1099 has already passed the house, and is now in the senate. Now it’s time to pass these two critical bills.

Deborah Beckwin is a content strategist and copywriter in Seattle. In the past, she has worked with people who have had a history of homelessness and severe mental health and substance abuse issues as a social worker in Chicago, IL, and has been a project manager supporting mental health outcomes research at Northwestern University.

12 thoughts on “Washington Can’t Wait for Action on Equitable Housing and Climate Change”

  1. A Joy: Respond to my comment below or lose your last shred of credibility here.

  2. So the source of the free stuff means it is not free stuff? WOW. Please look up the definition of free. Also, did you not realize the homeless are getting donated bicycles and tents from church charities? They steal shopping carts from stores and steal scooters off the street? In Seattle, there are no penalties for this. All the listed items are free. Please tell all of us exactly how much the homeless pay for all this free stuff. Hint, it starts with a “Z”. Your response is beyond weak… just pathetic actually.

    1. No, Steve. You know better than that. Seattle has no power over resources it does not provide. And when those same resources are available one block away from its city limits, claiming it is a Seattle centric thing is being intentionally disingenuous. You might as well argue it is a King County issue, a Washington State issue, or even a United States issue.

      Your assertion has been that the magnitude of social services within Seattle makes it a homeless magnet, despite any statistical study of the issue. Yet the social services you point to as evidence of that are not only located in Seattle.

      The source of the free stuff is important if you are trying to draw a conclusion about how that free stuff influences behavior. And you know that full well. You just choose to ignore it because it pokes giant holes in your anti-homeless screeds.

      Speaking of giant holes in your logic, scooter/bike shares and most shopping carts in the city have wheel locking mechanisms. So the homeless aren’t stealing them. And most churches in the area provide in building shelter, not things like tents and bicycles.

      The only person losing their last shred of credibility here is the person you see in the mirror.

      1. AJoy: Typical Progressive tactics: When you lose the argument, you change the subject. Your next post must tell everyone on this forum why free stuff the homeless get in Seattle is not free stuff the homeless get in Seattle. That is the only subject of the list of free stuff. The original source of the free stuff is irrelevant to the list. What if it came from Timbuktu? What if San Francisco has the same stuff? I hope the people who think like you get their way. Please keep giving away more free stuff. The homeless population will continuously rise, Seattle will get what it deserves, and I will be entertained by stupidity. Win-win-win….I love it. By the way, homeless steal scooters for the batteries and wiring. Your rant about wheel locks is irrelevant. At what point do facts start to matter to you? Please post again so everyone can see what is going on in your head, if anything.

      2. Steve Willie, the in Seattle part is completely irrelevant. What is the point of adding “in Seattle” if those same things are available outside of Seattle? Isn’t the relevant comparison what is available in Seattle that *isn’t* available elsewhere? Or are you just admitting to trolling now? Your complaint is that the homeless population is continuing to rise because of all this free stuff. But it is rising faster in Seattle than in all these other places that provide pretty much the same amount of free stuff. So clearly the free stuff isn’t the issue or the draw you seem to think it is.

        Homeless steal escooters for the batteries? Huh? What are they doing with them? They can’t sell them to anybody. They’re proprietary in size, shape, voltage, amperage, and wiring. A junk yard isn’t going to take them. They’d basically just be hazardous waste there. And the copper? There isn’t a whole lot of copper wiring in one of them. Are they breaking open the engines and trying to unspool the copper in the AC motor itself? I highly doubt it. As somebody who owns an ebike, theft of this type of thing is something I follow. And outside of one brand of ebike, this kind of thing isn’t all that common. None of the bike or scooter shares use RadPower products, so the black market isn’t there for them.

        But by all means, please regale us with your “logic”. It only shows how forced your “facts” are, and how willfully tunneled your vision has to be to distort the world around you to contort it to that twisted world view.

  3. “Seattle is so wealthy and progressive.”

    Some people are wealthy, not Seattle itself, not as currently managed. And progressive? No. Propertarian/libertarian, yes. Progressive should mean more than LGBTQ rights and legal weed. But in 20+ years, I’m not seeing it.

    1. Paulbeard: Progressivism includes both economic and social intervention. The 40 types of free stuff for social reform qualifies as Progressivism. See list below. Please get yourself educated before spewing fake news, you might fool some idiots. Steve Willie.

  4. Deborah:

    The lack of affordable housing in Seattle is about the same as Miami, which you should already be familiar with. Seattle is normal in that regard, but you sure want to be shocked and dismayed, don’t you. Your rant proves nothing. In addition, a foot of snow in Seattle is not that extreme. It happens about once every five years or so. If Seattle’s homeless cannot handle Seattle’s weather, they are free to move to San Diego or Miami with 300 warm days per year. Furthermore, they can do so at zero cost. You have no evidence that recent climate change has resulted in colder temperatures in Seattle. In fact, global warming eco-fascists were just claiming we would all be scorched. Where is the emergency? What is the emergency? There is no climate emergency. People like you just invented it to make yourselves feel more important. As for all the tents you see, you asked: “How is this happening?” The reason why you see so many tents in west coast cities is the Ninth Circuit ruling of Martin v. Boise which prohibits cities from issuing citations to people for camping in public spaces under most conditions. The decision is not binding on federal courts in Florida. This will be an “Aha” moment for you if you are paying attention. More free stuff is not part of any actual solution to homelessness. In fact, homeless people in Seattle already get 40 different types of free stuff. Free stuff only makes the problem worse. You worked as a social worker in Chicago. So did free stuff improve the homeless situation there at all? Why are you trying to pair-up homelessness with climate change? You sure like to put them together in the same paragraph, as if there was some type of linkage. In fact, neither one is causing the other. The climate has been changing every year for the past 4.5 billion years. Oh but let’s pass HB1099 and stop it. HA HA.

      1. Here is the crowd-sourced list of 40+ free things: In Free-attle you can get free medical and dental procedures, free prescription drugs, free vaccinations, free legal services, free mental health counseling, free debt counseling, free emotional counseling, free career counseling, free tiny homes, free hotel rooms, free apartments (5 buildings have fantastic water views), free electricity for tiny homes and apartments, free appliances for homes and apartments, free kitchenware, free furniture, free blankets, free tents, free blue tarps (plus other pretty colors), free food, free clothing (coats-shoes-socks-etc), free backpacks, free heating (always included), free air conditioning (cooling shelters), free drinking water, free beds and bedding, free showers, free laundry, free laundry soap (and sometimes bleach), free toothbrushes-toothpaste-razors-shaving cream-shampoo-soap (LIHI-URS), free trash bins, free trash collection service, free RV and tent camping spaces, rent-free storage of junk in public streets and parks, free shopping carts, free RV sewer collection, free activist classes, free movies, free books, free web-surfing (good for porn), free needles, free bathrooms, free toilet paper, free birth control, free abortions, free beer-cigarettes-marijuana edibles (Shoreline, April 2020), free bicycles and scooters (to dump in the Duwamish), free basic income, free rides (transit bus tickets and train passes), free cell phones, free cash money, free Naloxone-Narcan-Suboxone-buprenorphine (and several others). In Seattle, there is no need to deal with your own addictions or ever get a job. It is all freeeee! This list is updated frequently, so please contribute to the list if we missed anything. Steve Willie (my real name, unlike the fake-namers).

      2. So your 40+ free things from Seattle is a bunch of bunk. Medical, dental, prescriptions? That’s all through the state, not the city. Mental health? DSHS, so the state. Food banks? Multi county nonprofits. Basic income? DSHS, and only for the handful who qualify. Free cell phones? Federal program. These are just the ones I know off the top of my head. Free shopping carts, bikes, cash money and scooters? Prove it/provide the evidence. Your crowd sourced list is a bunch of lies, exaggerations, and Nextdoor style complaining.

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