Upon being sworn in as Seattle’s 56th Mayor in a ceremony at the Ethiopian Community Center in Rainier, Beach, Jenny A. Durkan pledged to tackle Seattle’s challenges of affordability, social and racial injustice, homelessness, and housing. U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones administered the oath to Durkan.
On her official first day in office, Durkan signed an Executive Order affirming the City of Seattle’s commitment to race and social justice and another one aimed to quickly develop and implement strategies, including rental assistance, to assist rent-burdened lower income households pay for their housing. She also spent time at South Seattle College where she spoke about the creation of the Seattle Promise College Tuition program, which will reduce and remove the ﬁnancial barriers that keep some Seattle public high school graduates from earning a degree, credential or certificate.
“It is a great opportunity to serve as your Mayor, but with the honor comes a deep responsibility,” said Durkan. “Our challenges are real, but people across our City are ready to work together to tackle our shared challenges and seize the opportunities that will continue to make Seattle the great City we love. We are the place that invents the future – and there is no doubt in my mind that working together, we will continue to look out to the horizon and create that better future for the next generation.”
Later in the day at an event in the Chinatown-International District, Durkan said: “Issues of racial and social inequity have become sewn into the fabric of society and government. The way to counter that imbalance is to keep race and social justice at the forefront when taking action and embedding them in conversations around equity. It’s imperative for creating healthy and vibrant communities throughout our city. Our city can and must do better to address institutional and structural racism in our government. We must also address true equity across education, affordability, and the criminal justice system. As a community, our path forward is put at the center of our conversation the voices on the people who face these significant disparities.”
The City of Seattle launched the Race and Social Justice Initiative in 2004, led by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), with the vision of achieving racial equity in the community and the mission of ending institutionalized racism in City government, promoting inclusion and full participation of all residents, and partnering with the community to achieve racial equity across Seattle.
“On a daily basis, Seattle residents are being forced from their homes and our city as rent prices continue to skyrocket. Our housing affordability crisis needs urgent remedies – families and individuals should not be forced to choose between buying much-needed medications, heating their homes, buying groceries, or paying their rent,” said Durkan. “While this action is only one tool for addressing our affordability crisis, families who need it most will see money back in their pockets now.”
Durkan said she plans to provide immediate relief in the first weeks in December to all families on Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) waiting list without preferential status. All eligible residents will be contacted to expedite enrollment in utility discount programs and other public benefits. A pilot Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Program will be developed by January – this program will aim to provide a combination of vouchers and/or subsidies for renters on the SHA to provide relief for families with income between 30% and 50% of the area median income (AMI). In addition, the Office of Housing (OH) and SHA will work to expedite placement into housing and an interdepartmental effort will work to streamline City benefits.
“This combination of immediate strategies hopefully can make the difference between keeping a roof over the heads of struggling families or forcing them onto the streets or into their cars,” said Durkan.
November 28, 2017 saw the beginning of a new era in Seattle. The date marked the first time in over 90 years that a woman would become mayor of Seattle. It also initiated Durkan as Seattle’s first lesbian mayor.