Seattle mayoral candidate Andrew Houston: City’s unsheltered need a ‘sense of permanence’

Jul 9, 2021, 5:12 AM | Updated: 6:35 am
Andrew Grant Houston spending cap...
Seattle mayoral candidate Andrew Grant Houston. (Campaign photo by Jessica Rycheal)
(Campaign photo by Jessica Rycheal)

In Seattle, voters get their first chance to weigh in on who they want to be the city’s next mayor in the primary this August.

KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show is speaking to the mayoral candidates, and has introduced listeners to six of the candidates so far. Andrew Grant Houston is one of the leading candidates in terms of money raised for his campaign. He is an architect and a housing activist.

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Gee and Ursula have asked every candidate the same thing: What is your plan to address the homelessness crisis, and how is it different from your opponents?

“I think that really just starts with that 2,500 tiny homes, and what it really is recognizing is that currently in Seattle we have about 3,500 people who are currently unsheltered. That means they are not in one of our other support services. They are not even in an RV,” Houston said. “These are the unsanctioned encampments of tents that people see outside every day.”

“And so what we are saying is that we need to directly bring those people in and provide them a sense of permanence as the direct response to be acknowledging that we are in an emergency. And so that is the short-term goal, with the long-term goal being that we invest additional money into permanently affordable housing,” he added. “That way we can actually get people into that system and out of homelessness.”

In terms of the police department, another big topic for mayoral candidates, Houston supports defunding the police by 50%.

“What we are really focused on is acknowledging that what we are doing is resetting the police budget back to what it was in 2010, and acknowledging that the increase in funding that has happened since then has not seen the same and equitable increase in safety across the city,” he said.

“So what we are doing is acknowledging what community has asked for, especially last year with all the protests, and investing in alternatives for public safety that are non-armed responses. That means expanding great programs that we have, like Health One, as well as investing in resources, like a universal basic income pilot, so that we can actually provide the resources that people need so that they don’t even commit crimes in the first place,” Houston explained.

When asked about the potential for a lower morale at SPD and even more Seattle police possibly leaving the department due to defunding, Houston noted that morale at SPD is already bad.

“What we’ve really seen, especially given a lot of the issues and I know that this was just discussed about the January 6 insurrection is that there is a lot of bad blood between the police department as well as the community,” Houston said. “And so it’s going to take a significant amount of time in order to really improve and restore that relationship to anything that can be seen as a true community belief and trust back into the police department.”

“At the same token, we also need to be able to ensure that we provide public safety to all Seattleites,” he continued. “And so that’s why I made it very clear that what I’m aiming for is 100% public safety, but less than 50% of that is relying on the police.”

As far as the 50% number, Houston says his plan is to reset the budget to what it was in 2010, which was just over $200 million, and the the funds saved from that would be invested into alternatives.

“The other thing that I’m really focused on is expanding our community service officer program, as well as something that’s called a public safety outreach coordinator,” Houston said. “So there actually is only one of these, and most people don’t even know that this position exists, but this is someone who specifically is involved in South Park and in that neighborhood to provide those people information and resources for public safety. And so what I’m saying is that that is a successful program and it’s something that that neighborhood loves. And so we are going to expand that program and actually put it in other places.”

“At the end of the day, my goal is not just that we are providing public safety, but what you will actually see is an increase in the number of individuals from the city who are actively engaged and outside in all of our neighborhoods,” he added.

Listen to the full interview with Andrew Grant Houston in the audio player above, or online here.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Seattle mayoral candidate Andrew Houston: City’s unsheltered need a ‘sense of permanence’