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Council approves plan to fight displacement, promote equity, social justice

Summary

The King County Council on Tuesday approved legislation aimed at fighting displacement and combating the effects of historical racism and injustice through establishment of a grants program and suite of other resources.

Story

The King County Council on Tuesday approved legislation aimed at fighting displacement and combating the effects of historical racism and injustice through establishment of a grants program and suite of other resources. Sponsored by Councilmembers Rod Dembowski, Girmay Zahilay and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the Equitable Development Initiative will serve as a guiding framework for investment and resource allocation in historically marginalized communities across King County to address the impacts of past policies that have led to inequities and displacement.

“This legislation offers a new approach to making investments to support communities where needs are greatest,” Dembowski said. “It empowers and centers the voices of community members who are on the ground, doing this work today to make decisions about how and where to invest resources to provide opportunities for housing, jobs, and community spaces. I’m honored to have partnered with community leaders from all over King County to pass this legislation and look forward to seeing its impacts for years to come.”

King County, like all of America, has a history of structural racism that continues to have oppressive effects on Black, Indigenous and people of color. Policies and laws, like alien land laws and racially restrictive covenants, prevented BIPOC communities from owning homes and accumulating generational wealth. Combined with explosive growth in housing prices and a shrinking supply of affordable housing, historically marginalized communities continue to be displaced at disproportionate rates and struggle to maintain housing. The Equitable Development Initiative responds to the unequal distribution of opportunities by intentionally investing in communities that have been left behind by these policies and issues.

“Combating displacement and keeping communities intact was one of the main reasons I ran for office, so this legislation is personal and an important step in the right direction,” Zahilay said. “A King County Equitable Development Initiative will help people establish deep roots in their neighborhoods. It will advance a county-wide strategy for investing in community-driven and community-owned anti-displacement solutions. Thank you to all those who made this legislation possible.”

As approved, the motion requests the Executive to establish the Equitable Development Initiative and then prepare a two-phase implementation plan. The motion lays out a set of principles to guide the initiative, including:

  • Advancing economic mobility and opportunity for residents
  • Preventing residential, commercial and cultural displacement
  • Building upon and protecting local cultural assets that anchor communities
  • Supporting organizational capacity building
  • Promoting transportation mobility and connectivity
  • Enabling equitable access for all communities

 

“As the King County region continues to grow, centering equity in that growth is vital. That’s why we have laid the groundwork today to ensure that new development takes into account the systemic underinvestment in certain areas of the county to the detriment of many of our already-marginalized communities,” Kohl-Welles said. “Thank you, Councilmember Dembowski, for introducing the legislation which I’m pleased to cosponsor, and to my colleagues for the robust discussion and work to make this happen.”

The first phase would include creating the EDI program, while the second phase would include setting objectives to reduce disparities, analyzing data on displacement risk and other factors to set out further programs and policies, monitoring outcomes, setting up partnerships with outside agencies and community organizations, leveraging funding and more.

The first phase of the plan is due back to Council by August 30 and the second phase will be due a year later, in 2023.

Additional quotes:

Yordanos Teferi, Executive Director of Multicultural Community Coalition: "We have watched our neighbors, small businesses and cultural anchors get displaced from neighborhoods they helped build and shape due to the increasing price of land, especially now with COVID-19. A King County Equitable Development Initiative puts power back into the hands of our communities by affording us opportunities to own and control land in the advancement of community-driven projects. Our communities know what we need to be resilient, overcome our challenges and prosper in place – we appreciate that our collaboration with Council has resulted in community-empowered legislation that will allow those most at risk and most impacted by displacement to have voice and leadership in the King County EDI creation, design and implementation processes."

Kayla Jackson, Program Manager at Puget Sound Sage: "The King County EDI coalition, a group of 40+ BIPOC-led community-based organizations throughout the county, came to council with a vision for community owned and controlled land. Passing a KC EDI is the first step in our coalition's long-term vision. A key aspect of the EDI program is that it will be co-designed with and led by BIPOC and marginalized communities who have been affected by displacement, because we believe that those closest to the problem are the ones that know the solutions."

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