You are on page 1of 3

Dear Councilmembers,

Here are my answers to the questions posed by Councilmember Kshama Sawant:


Question 1. Do you support rent control?
Yes. I was awarded scholarships and financial aid while attending grad school at MIT. It was
expensive paying MIT tuition and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I did not get saddled
with huge student loan debt when I graduated precisely because I lived in a rent controlled
apartment in Cambridge. I had a wonderful landlord and the rent was raised 2-4% each year. I
was able to see firsthand that rent control reduced the impact of gentrification and displacement
in Cambridge.
I support the City Council passing a resolution to lift the State ban on rent control. Even Mayor
Murray, when he was a state legislator, sponsored bills to abolish the ban on rent control. Cities
should have local control on whether they want rent control and rent stabilization.
While I've lived in Seattle for over 30 years, I grew up in Philadelphia. A Fair Housing
Ordinance and a Fair Housing Commission existed in Philly. By law, landlords could not raise
the rent if housing code violations existed on a property. This protected many struggling and
working class families, including many renters of color, from unaffordable rent increases.
Landlords could not terminate a lease or change the terms of a lease if code violations were
present. Renters were able to appeal illegal rent increases to the Fair Housing Commission.
Landlords also had to certify that all rental housing had working smoke detectors and fire
extinguishers. Seattle should look at these options to ensure fairness in the housing market.
Question 2. Do you support enacting the maximum legal linkage fee on developers, estimated to
be close to the equivalent of discounting 10 percent of apartments to affordable rates?
Yes I support linkage fees on development. The City Council, through the leadership of
Councilmember Mike O'Brien, already passed a resolution supporting linkage fees. The specific
proposal from the Mayor is to come to Council soon. I support a short phase-in of the fee to the
maximum allowable and I am open to considering multi-year payments (instead of one lump sum
payment) from developers.
After living in Cambridge I moved to Boston where a highly successful linkage fee is required
on all new large-scale commercial real estate developments. When a permit is issued a cash
payment over seven years can be made to the Neighborhood Housing Trust to create affordable
housing. Or a cash payment made over two years can go to the Neighborhood Jobs Trust to fund
jobs training for people in the affected communities. Through 2014, over $148 million has been
generated to help create 10,725 affordable housing units in Boston.
Look at Boston today. It is a world class city. The linkage fees imposed since the 1980's did not
stop the development of upscale luxury housing, office towers and commercial projects. And
Boston's linkage fees are higher than in most other cities.

Question 3. What do you think is the most urgent public decision facing council members in
2015?
I think the lack of affordable housing for families, seniors and disabled people is the most urgent
issue facing council members in 2015. Income inequality is exacerbated by the high cost of
housing in Seattle. 48% of renters of color are cost burdened, paying too much of their income
for housing. These families are at risk of homelessness, eviction or having to move out of
Seattle.
Simply stated, 20,000 more rent restricted, nonprofit controlled low income apartments are
needed. The academic studies show that families with children who experience multiple
evictions stemming from non-payment of rent suffer long-term consequences.
Question 4. How should Seattle address the growth in homelessness?
Homelessness can be ended for hundreds and thousands of people. This requires a multi-pronged
strategy of: 5,000 more homeless housing units linked with services; homelessness prevention;
and crisis intervention like shelters, tent cities, use of city-owned properties and winter warming
centers so that families and singles are not exposed to the elements or victimized while living on
the streets. There are 400 homeless young adults on the streets and 500 homeless families
unsheltered. This is a solvable problem.
The city can issue general obligation Housing Bonds for low income and homeless housing that
can be repaid by revenue from linkage fees and the expanding economy.
Question 5. Do you support increasing the penalties and remedies for wage theft?
Yes. Civil and criminal penalties should be imposed.
Question 6. Do you think human services in Seattle are adequately funded? If not, how would
you fund them?
Human services are not adequately funded. The City of Seattle general fund budget is $1 billion
annually and it is a question of priority as to how much is dedicated to human services.
Question 7. What is your opinion of Bertha and the tunnel project?
The image of Bertha is a giant money pit! Seattle residents should not be stuck with the bill and
cost overruns.
Question 8. In light of the gender pay gap, would you have voted for or against the tip penalty in
the $15-an-hour minimum wage law?
I would vote against the tip penalty. The fine people who work in restaurants and serve us should
be able to have living wage jobs and long term careers.

Question 9. Do you think Black Lives Matter, and do you think it is important for politicians to
say, Black Lives Matter?
Absolutely, Black Lives Matter. I support the work of Police Chief Katherine OToole and
Monitor Merrick Bobb to reform the police department in accordance with the consent decree
between the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice. Accusations of excessive force need
to be thoroughly investigated, body cameras need to be worn by all officers, and officers need to
be trained in de-escalation techniques. We need to reverse the conditions that lead to the mass
incarceration of blacks. We need to address the disproportional impact of displacement due to
rising rents and gentrification on our black community.
Question 10. Do you support the business head tax, capital gains tax, and other forms of
progressive taxation?
I support a capital gains tax and I am willing to explore ways to address income inequality
through progressive taxation.
Thanks for this opportunity to respond to your questions.
Sincerely,
Sharon Lee