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Seattle Housing Authority

The Seattle Housing Authority is “a public corporation that provides affordable housing to more than 25,500 people who earn less than 80 percent of Seattle’s median income.” At their website they are eager to tell you that their mission “is to enhance the Seattle community by creating and sustaining decent, safe and affordable living environments that foster stability and self-sufficiency for people with low incomes.”

The Seattle Housing Authority acted as the “master builder” in the construction of the neighborhood now known as New Holly. New Holly used to be known as Holly Park, as crime-ridden and run-down a section of public housing as e’er was known in Seattle. New Holly, they’re proud to trumpet to the world, is an “award winning” redevelopment project, a federally funded Hope VI project. The community is “unique” and “model for the rest of the nation to follow”.

Pramas and I were among the first lucky families to buy into Phase One. When we bought in, our Home Owner’s Association was controlled by members of the SHA. That continued until sometime this year. The SHA owns the housing that is side-by-side with individual homeowners and rented out to Section 8 tenants. Before we ever bought our house, the builders had in place covenants for a mandatory Home Owner’s Association (the management of which I have railed on about in this blog at length in the past). The items of “concern” to the “homeowners” were laid out by the SHA (such as what colors we’re allowed to paint our porch steps or how our bushes need to be maintained or the ban on clotheslines, garden sheds and dog houses). Whether those things are actually “of concern” the the majority of homeowners in this community is something I would question, especially when we have issues with graffiti, reckless youths, and brazen drug and alcohol use in the parks we’ve set aside and pay to maintain (in theory for the community’s children). It was the SHA-controlled board that knowingly enticed people into the community by setting initial HOA dues unsustainably low and led our community into a several-year “budget shortfall” that had to be made up with a special assessment, among other things.

Of course, the number of homeowners needed to pass *any* resolution (or, indeed, to even legally vote in our homeowner-controlled board of directors) is so outrageously high that it’s virtually impossible to get the community to make any changes. For the better part of this year we were ham-strung by poor homeowner voter turnout and couldn’t even get the SHA’s minions OFF the board! It seems that we’ve FINALLY gotten actual homeowners in control of the board. I was already irritated about their treatment of the neighbor who wanted to open the wine bar in the commercial building the SHA owns, which I blogged about around Christmas, and I can’t say I’m unhappy to see the SHA’s employees OFF the board at this stage.

One might wonder why I’m going into the entire preamble for the SHA’s involvement in our community at this point. New Holly was on the news today. Thanks to a neighborhood mailing list, I was alerted to the fact (though I happened to see the mobile news van parked in the New Holly Community Center parking lot this afternoon and might have clued in that something was up anyway) and was able to tune in. What did the news have to say? Well, for starters it seems that New Holly residents are about to learn their heating systems are malfunctioning and their drinking water may be exposed to lead. Oh yeah! Woo! LEAD. Awesome! Not like we have families with small children living in these houses or anything! The new report goes on to say A June 2006 report conducted for the Seattle Housing Authority found serious problems with the heating systems of 120 units of the NewHolly Development. JUNE 2006. NINETEEN MONTHS AGO. What the news fails to draw out is that the SHA built ALL the houses in this development and sold people like me some of the houses at market price to help subsidize the rest of the development… but I’ll lay money that those 120 units that were tested were all units owned by the SHA. Individual homeowners were not informed of what the SHA learned and though word is trickling out many of them still do not know!

Adding insult to injury there was a woman from the SHA who spoke to the media. Her comment? “I think they should be cautious about the systems in their homes and we will work with them through that caution.” We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?! It has no meaning whatsoever. The news mentions that the SHA is facing having to replace 120 waters systems at $20K a pop… but doesn’t mention that’s only the units the SHA itself owns. Each of the individual homeowners are going to be on the hook for those costs if our homes are affected by this issue. In any other circumstance, the builder who used the defective materials to build our homes would be held accountable but the SHA seems to believe that they’re off the hook because, despite being the “master builder” for the project, they’re a public agency and are thus somehow above responsibility. Frankly, I think they’re unused to having to deal with people of means who have the contacts, money, and general wherewithal to fight back! Poverty-stricken tenants are entirely at their mercy, have to abide by “tenant obligations and responsibilities” or be thrown out. HomeOWNERS, professionals who can afford houses that cost up to $450K or more, are on much more level ground; lawyers and the media are involved now and the SHA had better get their act together soon.

I wonder what the SHA commissioners will have to say.

35 comments to Seattle Housing Authority

  • Damn. That’s terrible. Good on you guys for committing to a mixed income community all the same.

    • Yikes! I hope that they’ve improved on those water-testing kits they used to sell — the one I bought years ago was one I had to send off to a lab. I’d be twitching the entire time I was waiting for a result in a situation like this. (Because it sounds like that’d be faster than waiting on the people involved in this to get you the information you need.)

      I wish you all the best of luck in this situation!

      • At this point I’m quite relieved that we’ve had a water cooler for drinking water for most of the time we’ve lived in the house, let me tell you. I had been feeling a bit guilty about it, especially after the city’s public campaign about how clean and fresh city water is and how environmentally bad bottled water is… but we’d had this same scenario play out in Kate’s school a few years ago (water was great but the old pipes were not). It probably reduced any potential exposure about as low as it can be but you bet I’m getting a water testing kit today.

        • Even if you have lead problems, if you flush your pipes (run water for at least 30 seconds if it’s been sitting around, e.g. overnight) you will probably be OK. It would be a good idea to talk to a testing lab though.

          We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?!

          “We’re stalling for time to marshall our lawyers.”

          • No kidding.

            After the news aired, all of a sudden the SHA is very interested in communication on the issue. There had been a handful of homeowners (ones who were among the first to be affected by the failed heating systems) who had been trying to get some response out of the SHA for over a year. Nothing. Now that the news covered the situation the SHA had its people out in force, depositing letters on front doors around the neighborhood, assuring us all that there’s NO concern about lead in the water. I got the letter twice, they were so eager.

    • Having grown up poor myself I knew that poverty alone does not make people bad or scary, so living side by side with people of different means was not something that would put us off. We got quite a steal on our house as it was the last house in the phase that needed to sell so funding for the next phase could be released. They were motivated to deal with us. The newer phases (Two and Three) were sold for far more (in some cases more than double what we paid for a couple hundred square feet difference) and the upwardly mobile professionals who bought those houses and townhouses are perhaps not of the same opinion. The gaps are far larger for those neighbors.

      The biggest challenge in our community is language. Homeowners on my block are heavily Chinese. We also have Vietnamese, Somali, Eritrean, Filipino, and numerous others living side by side but not really “integrated” because of language.

  • Damn. That’s terrible. Good on you guys for committing to a mixed income community all the same.

    • Yikes! I hope that they’ve improved on those water-testing kits they used to sell — the one I bought years ago was one I had to send off to a lab. I’d be twitching the entire time I was waiting for a result in a situation like this. (Because it sounds like that’d be faster than waiting on the people involved in this to get you the information you need.)

      I wish you all the best of luck in this situation!

      • At this point I’m quite relieved that we’ve had a water cooler for drinking water for most of the time we’ve lived in the house, let me tell you. I had been feeling a bit guilty about it, especially after the city’s public campaign about how clean and fresh city water is and how environmentally bad bottled water is… but we’d had this same scenario play out in Kate’s school a few years ago (water was great but the old pipes were not). It probably reduced any potential exposure about as low as it can be but you bet I’m getting a water testing kit today.

        • Even if you have lead problems, if you flush your pipes (run water for at least 30 seconds if it’s been sitting around, e.g. overnight) you will probably be OK. It would be a good idea to talk to a testing lab though.

          We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?!

          “We’re stalling for time to marshall our lawyers.”

          • No kidding.

            After the news aired, all of a sudden the SHA is very interested in communication on the issue. There had been a handful of homeowners (ones who were among the first to be affected by the failed heating systems) who had been trying to get some response out of the SHA for over a year. Nothing. Now that the news covered the situation the SHA had its people out in force, depositing letters on front doors around the neighborhood, assuring us all that there’s NO concern about lead in the water. I got the letter twice, they were so eager.

          • No kidding.

            After the news aired, all of a sudden the SHA is very interested in communication on the issue. There had been a handful of homeowners (ones who were among the first to be affected by the failed heating systems) who had been trying to get some response out of the SHA for over a year. Nothing. Now that the news covered the situation the SHA had its people out in force, depositing letters on front doors around the neighborhood, assuring us all that there’s NO concern about lead in the water. I got the letter twice, they were so eager.

        • Even if you have lead problems, if you flush your pipes (run water for at least 30 seconds if it’s been sitting around, e.g. overnight) you will probably be OK. It would be a good idea to talk to a testing lab though.

          We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?!

          “We’re stalling for time to marshall our lawyers.”

      • At this point I’m quite relieved that we’ve had a water cooler for drinking water for most of the time we’ve lived in the house, let me tell you. I had been feeling a bit guilty about it, especially after the city’s public campaign about how clean and fresh city water is and how environmentally bad bottled water is… but we’d had this same scenario play out in Kate’s school a few years ago (water was great but the old pipes were not). It probably reduced any potential exposure about as low as it can be but you bet I’m getting a water testing kit today.

    • Yikes! I hope that they’ve improved on those water-testing kits they used to sell — the one I bought years ago was one I had to send off to a lab. I’d be twitching the entire time I was waiting for a result in a situation like this. (Because it sounds like that’d be faster than waiting on the people involved in this to get you the information you need.)

      I wish you all the best of luck in this situation!

    • Having grown up poor myself I knew that poverty alone does not make people bad or scary, so living side by side with people of different means was not something that would put us off. We got quite a steal on our house as it was the last house in the phase that needed to sell so funding for the next phase could be released. They were motivated to deal with us. The newer phases (Two and Three) were sold for far more (in some cases more than double what we paid for a couple hundred square feet difference) and the upwardly mobile professionals who bought those houses and townhouses are perhaps not of the same opinion. The gaps are far larger for those neighbors.

      The biggest challenge in our community is language. Homeowners on my block are heavily Chinese. We also have Vietnamese, Somali, Eritrean, Filipino, and numerous others living side by side but not really “integrated” because of language.

    • Having grown up poor myself I knew that poverty alone does not make people bad or scary, so living side by side with people of different means was not something that would put us off. We got quite a steal on our house as it was the last house in the phase that needed to sell so funding for the next phase could be released. They were motivated to deal with us. The newer phases (Two and Three) were sold for far more (in some cases more than double what we paid for a couple hundred square feet difference) and the upwardly mobile professionals who bought those houses and townhouses are perhaps not of the same opinion. The gaps are far larger for those neighbors.

      The biggest challenge in our community is language. Homeowners on my block are heavily Chinese. We also have Vietnamese, Somali, Eritrean, Filipino, and numerous others living side by side but not really “integrated” because of language.

  • Damn. That’s terrible. Good on you guys for committing to a mixed income community all the same.

  • Damn. That’s terrible. Good on you guys for committing to a mixed income community all the same.

    • Yikes! I hope that they’ve improved on those water-testing kits they used to sell — the one I bought years ago was one I had to send off to a lab. I’d be twitching the entire time I was waiting for a result in a situation like this. (Because it sounds like that’d be faster than waiting on the people involved in this to get you the information you need.)

      I wish you all the best of luck in this situation!

      • At this point I’m quite relieved that we’ve had a water cooler for drinking water for most of the time we’ve lived in the house, let me tell you. I had been feeling a bit guilty about it, especially after the city’s public campaign about how clean and fresh city water is and how environmentally bad bottled water is… but we’d had this same scenario play out in Kate’s school a few years ago (water was great but the old pipes were not). It probably reduced any potential exposure about as low as it can be but you bet I’m getting a water testing kit today.

        • Even if you have lead problems, if you flush your pipes (run water for at least 30 seconds if it’s been sitting around, e.g. overnight) you will probably be OK. It would be a good idea to talk to a testing lab though.

          We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?!

          “We’re stalling for time to marshall our lawyers.”

          • No kidding.

            After the news aired, all of a sudden the SHA is very interested in communication on the issue. There had been a handful of homeowners (ones who were among the first to be affected by the failed heating systems) who had been trying to get some response out of the SHA for over a year. Nothing. Now that the news covered the situation the SHA had its people out in force, depositing letters on front doors around the neighborhood, assuring us all that there’s NO concern about lead in the water. I got the letter twice, they were so eager.

    • Having grown up poor myself I knew that poverty alone does not make people bad or scary, so living side by side with people of different means was not something that would put us off. We got quite a steal on our house as it was the last house in the phase that needed to sell so funding for the next phase could be released. They were motivated to deal with us. The newer phases (Two and Three) were sold for far more (in some cases more than double what we paid for a couple hundred square feet difference) and the upwardly mobile professionals who bought those houses and townhouses are perhaps not of the same opinion. The gaps are far larger for those neighbors.

      The biggest challenge in our community is language. Homeowners on my block are heavily Chinese. We also have Vietnamese, Somali, Eritrean, Filipino, and numerous others living side by side but not really “integrated” because of language.

  • Damn. That’s terrible. Good on you guys for committing to a mixed income community all the same.

  • Yikes! I hope that they’ve improved on those water-testing kits they used to sell — the one I bought years ago was one I had to send off to a lab. I’d be twitching the entire time I was waiting for a result in a situation like this. (Because it sounds like that’d be faster than waiting on the people involved in this to get you the information you need.)

    I wish you all the best of luck in this situation!

  • At this point I’m quite relieved that we’ve had a water cooler for drinking water for most of the time we’ve lived in the house, let me tell you. I had been feeling a bit guilty about it, especially after the city’s public campaign about how clean and fresh city water is and how environmentally bad bottled water is… but we’d had this same scenario play out in Kate’s school a few years ago (water was great but the old pipes were not). It probably reduced any potential exposure about as low as it can be but you bet I’m getting a water testing kit today.

  • Having grown up poor myself I knew that poverty alone does not make people bad or scary, so living side by side with people of different means was not something that would put us off. We got quite a steal on our house as it was the last house in the phase that needed to sell so funding for the next phase could be released. They were motivated to deal with us. The newer phases (Two and Three) were sold for far more (in some cases more than double what we paid for a couple hundred square feet difference) and the upwardly mobile professionals who bought those houses and townhouses are perhaps not of the same opinion. The gaps are far larger for those neighbors.

    The biggest challenge in our community is language. Homeowners on my block are heavily Chinese. We also have Vietnamese, Somali, Eritrean, Filipino, and numerous others living side by side but not really “integrated” because of language.

  • Yeah, the lead thing can be bad. We weren’t told until the day we moved into our last apt that it was old enough to have had lead paint used when it was built. When my daughter was one, I had her tested, and she had a lead level of 4. Three very expensive treatments later and us buying a new condo as fast as possible, and we’ve finally gotten the lead out of her system. But no one wanted to admit they’d made a mistake.

    I hope your house doesn’t have these problems – what a mess!

  • Yeah, the lead thing can be bad. We weren’t told until the day we moved into our last apt that it was old enough to have had lead paint used when it was built. When my daughter was one, I had her tested, and she had a lead level of 4. Three very expensive treatments later and us buying a new condo as fast as possible, and we’ve finally gotten the lead out of her system. But no one wanted to admit they’d made a mistake.

    I hope your house doesn’t have these problems – what a mess!

  • Yeah, the lead thing can be bad. We weren’t told until the day we moved into our last apt that it was old enough to have had lead paint used when it was built. When my daughter was one, I had her tested, and she had a lead level of 4. Three very expensive treatments later and us buying a new condo as fast as possible, and we’ve finally gotten the lead out of her system. But no one wanted to admit they’d made a mistake.

    I hope your house doesn’t have these problems – what a mess!

  • Yeah, the lead thing can be bad. We weren’t told until the day we moved into our last apt that it was old enough to have had lead paint used when it was built. When my daughter was one, I had her tested, and she had a lead level of 4. Three very expensive treatments later and us buying a new condo as fast as possible, and we’ve finally gotten the lead out of her system. But no one wanted to admit they’d made a mistake.

    I hope your house doesn’t have these problems – what a mess!

  • Yeah, the lead thing can be bad. We weren’t told until the day we moved into our last apt that it was old enough to have had lead paint used when it was built. When my daughter was one, I had her tested, and she had a lead level of 4. Three very expensive treatments later and us buying a new condo as fast as possible, and we’ve finally gotten the lead out of her system. But no one wanted to admit they’d made a mistake.

    I hope your house doesn’t have these problems – what a mess!

  • Even if you have lead problems, if you flush your pipes (run water for at least 30 seconds if it’s been sitting around, e.g. overnight) you will probably be OK. It would be a good idea to talk to a testing lab though.

    We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?!

    “We’re stalling for time to marshall our lawyers.”

  • No kidding.

    After the news aired, all of a sudden the SHA is very interested in communication on the issue. There had been a handful of homeowners (ones who were among the first to be affected by the failed heating systems) who had been trying to get some response out of the SHA for over a year. Nothing. Now that the news covered the situation the SHA had its people out in force, depositing letters on front doors around the neighborhood, assuring us all that there’s NO concern about lead in the water. I got the letter twice, they were so eager.