‘Compassion Seattle’ homelessness initiative qualifies for November ballot
A proposal for an amendment to Seattle’s city charter that could have wide-ranging effects on its homelessness response efforts has officially qualified for the November ballot.
The initiative was put forth by a group known as Compassion Seattle, staffed by SoDo Business Improvement Area Executive Director Erin Goodman, former City Council President Tim Burgess, and former King County Executive Ron Sims, among others.
The proposed amendment to the city charter would mandate an additional 2,000 shelter beds or permanent housing units within a one-year period by waiving building permit fees, treating housing permit applications as “first-in-line” for expedited treatment, and refunding to the payee the city’s portion of the sales tax paid for these facilities. It also places a requirement on the city “to ensure that parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets remain open and clear of encampments.”
In total, Compassion Seattle collected just over 66,000 total signatures, over twice the 33,060 it needed to qualify for the ballot. Of those signatures, 48% were determined to be invalid by King County Elections, largely due to signers who were not registered to vote in Seattle. Even so, that still left enough valid signatures to qualify the proposal for the November ballot, where voters will ultimately decide on its fate.
A recent poll published by the Northwest Progressive Institute found that 61% of the 617 Seattle voters surveyed supported the charter amendment. Another 23% were opposed, while 16% remained unsure.
Despite that support, the proposal has also come under heavy criticism from groups pointing out how it does not identify a source for funding the 2,000 proposed shelter spaces, nor will that number be enough to house the city’s estimated 4,000 people currently experiencing homelessness. Opponents have also argued that it will not ultimately allow for the creation of permanent shelter space given the limited timeline.
Several local homelessness advocacy groups have come out against the charter amendment as well, including Nickelsville, SHARE, WHEEL, and the Lived Experience Coalition.