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Protesters Disrupt Seattle Housing Authority Hearing With Chants Of `Rent Hikes — No!'

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Ashley Gross
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KPLU

Protesters broke out in chants and disrupted a public hearing held by the Seattle Housing Authority on Monday night. They were protesting the agency’s plan to raise rents for tenants who are deemed able to work. 

In a packed community center in West Seattle, Housing Authority executive director Andrew Lofton tried to present the proposal, but had a hard time. The crowd periodically interrupted with chants of "Rent hikes — no!" and "Show me the jobs!" 

The agency has floated a plan to no longer charge rent as a percentage of a tenant’s income. Instead, rent would climb 400 percent within six years, and residents would be offered job training aimed at helping them find better-paying work.

The rent would still be below market, but residents like Mohamed Mohamed say it would just mean current residents becoming homeless to make room for people on the waitlist.

"You cannot destroy lives to improve other lives," Mohamed said. "You cannot put people out on the streets to make other people’s lives better."

Some people did speak up in favor. Steve Matthews and his wife live in public housing and both work - he's a part-time hairstylist and also collects a disability check; she's a nurse.

They pay more than $1,100 a month in rent. He says he knows of other people who game the system, and thinks the change is probably a good thing.

"There are people that live in Seattle Housing, their husband drives a cab, they have a little day care in the back of their house, and they’re paying $50, but they’re not reporting this to Housing," Matthews said. 

The housing authority hasn’t said yet when the board will vote on the proposal. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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