Social Housing Working Group

The Crisis

We all need a safe, stable, comfortable place to live, but capitalism places this outside the reach of many of us. There are hundreds of thousands of people homeless in this country, and in no state, county, or city can a person earning minimum wage afford a basic, two-bedroom rental (full report at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition). When people can afford a reantal, it is often substandard, owned by a slumlord who is all to happy to skimp on maintenance and repairs. In the Puget Sound region, we are seeing rapidly rising population trends that are far outstripping our available housing, resulting in rising rents and greater housing insecurity. Thurston County already has an undersupply of housing and a one-bedroom rental is unaffordable to anyone earning less than $17/hr. Our population is expected to grow by 70,000 people by 2030, only exacerbating this problem, and yet the new housing construction we see being built are half-occupied luxury developments and McMansions.

The Solution

Olympia DSA wants to see the our local and county governments take the lead in seeing that the housing needs of all people in Thurston County are met by constructing and managing self-supporting, mixed-income social housing. Based on the experiences of social housing projects around the world, we are developing a plan for local government investment in housing based applying the ideas in the report Social Housing in the United States from the People's Policy Project to the situation in Thurston County.

Our new report on 'Comprehensive Social Housing for Thurston County' details the economics involved in such a potential social housing project. Given our general economic condition, the tightness of the housing market, and some of the unique advantages a public housing authority has, we can safely assume a robust revenue stream that will not only cover costs, but immediately begin generating surplus revenue that can bolster our housing budget.

We know there is a shortfall in housing units, especially in the cities of Tumwater, Olympia, and Lacey, and especially in the lower to middle of the rental market. And we know that the private housing market is not acting to meet this need. Fortunately, we already have a public body that can act to meet these needs and build the kind of housing we want in the Thurston County Housing Authority. All we need is for them to use the powers they already have.