Neil Powers, writing for Outside City Hall, interviews Cary Moon: she won’t be talking about her signature anti-tunnel work
Outside City Hall met with Moon last week in a downtown café to talk about other pressing issues. She talks of addressing racism, homelessness, taking on “zombie” economics of the speculative housing boom, and needing four times as much affordable housing.
Take on Speculation–Push Varieties of Affordable Housing
Moon wants to take on housing speculation to make a dent in the affordability problem in Seattle. “I believe a lot of the problems in our housing market right now are speculators,” she says. “We (Seattle housing) are the hottest investment around and we need to put disincentives, really firm in place immediately, like Vancouver (B.C.) did where you put a tax on corporate and non-resident ownership….a tax on vacant property (homes). She wants additional revenue via a luxury real estate excise tax.
Moon wants to see the city collect data including how many housing properties are vacant and are not used as a main home. “We could be measuring how many properties are being bought by Limited Liability Companies, shell companies, and Real Estate Investment Trusts,” Moon says.
Moon wants housing options. “Do more land trusts, co-ops, co-housing facilities where philanthropists partner and they secure the land and then somebody develops the housing,” she adds. “Housing is affordable because the resident is only paying for the cost of the housing, not the cost of the land which is a big part of the price situation.”
She wants to address the “missing middle”, people not below median income but also needing affordable homes. “So what can we do to make it easier for folks to build backyard houses, apodments, duplexes, townhouses?” she asks.
Watch out for Zombie Economics
Moon is skeptical of the housing supply and demand model. “We see neo-liberalism is a zombie form of economic thinking because we are living the impact of that way of thinking,” she says. “We need to replace it with something better.”
She sees global capital looking looking at hot housing markets like Seattle as a good place to invest. “It’s being driven by people who think of it (housing) as a commodity,” says Moon.
Impact Fees-Everyone’s Doing It Except…….
According to the Seattle Times, about 80 Washington cities require developers to help pay for growth related infrastructure costs. Seattle does not. Moon has concerns impact fees would raise housing costs. “I think we’ve got to find the right balance so that we get the funding for infrastructure that we need without raising the prices on the new housing,” she says.
Besides housing, many of Moon’s approaches to homelessness call for improving the shelter system. Mayor Murray’s consultant, Barbara Poppe, wants shelters to be open 24/7. Moon wants to see what shelter providers think about that. “Yes we need more 24-hour shelters but we need to do it in a way that works with providers,” she offers. “We need more low-barrier shelters that accommodates people as they are.”
Let’s Talk and Act on Racism
Outside City Hall makes a point that homelessness is not representative in the Seattle region. For example, people experiencing homelessness are five times per capita more likely to be African American and seven times per-capita to be Indigenous.
“It makes me so furious,” says Moon, eyes squinting. She sees this as getting to the core of racial equity and economic equity questions.
“We redlined and used racial covenants for decades in the city,” Moon says. “Let’s talk about the impact of that and how wealth inequality is completely aligned with racial inequality.” She wants the city to confront racism and act on it. She is quick to say that people of color have been doing their part. “White people, it’s time to listen,” she urges.
It’s Not the Tech Workers-Blame Housing Speculation
“I want to blame speculation and figure out a way to solve the problem so they (tech newcomers) are welcomed into our community and they can help solve the problem too,” says Moon. She points to a group, Seattle Tech 4 Housing as tech workers wanting to be part of the solution.
Enough with Displacement-Find Solutions
She talks of Xochitl Maykovich, a community organizer with WA Community Action Network who says that Seattle renters are being pushed to lower rent areas further south, outside of Seattle.
“I think we should look at all the communities that are under threat…..sit down with those communities and understand what equitable growth would look like for them,” Moon says. “Make community benefit agreements or make an agreement for what the neighborhood needs to help businesses thrive in place and help grow whatever benefits the community.”
HALA-The Grand Bargain?
Moon would revisit the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) which allows developers some greater up–zones in return for options leading to more affordable housing.
“The Community Housing Caucus did a great report in the early part of the HALA process saying here are all the solutions we have,” notes Moon. “I think there are a lot of really good solutions in that report that did not get included in HALA so let’s go back and relook at those.” She describes up zones as “a good first step.” Moon wants four times the six percent level of affordable housing stock in Seattle that HALA gets to. (Note: interviewer was member of Community Housing Caucus.)
Some Talk on Life Outside of Running for Mayor
The discussion shifts gears and closes with a few questions about family, a recent book and people who inspire.
Talking about raising two teenage children in downtown Seattle, Moon says, “I am committed to my kids being in society, mixing it up with everybody.” She’s proud of being car-free and that her kids well know the public transit system. “I am the kind of Mom who wants my kids to be really integrated in the city,” she says.
A recent book inspires Moon. “I read ‘Underground Railroad’ recently,” she says. “It makes the grotesqueness of white superiority so visceral and so completely visible.”
Wrapping up, Moon talks about two women who inspire her work: “I think Angela Davis because her clarity of thought and her commitment to the greater good is so clear,” she points out. “Elizabeth Warren, because she is fearless and calling out the bad behavior of folks who are used to having cover.”
Neil’s Bio: Neil Powers was born near Scranton, Pa. He has lived in Toronto, Ontario and calls Seattle home.
A lengthier transcript of Neil’s interview with Candidate Moon can be found here: