How Seattle’s housing crisis could be solved with a Public Bank

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Photo courtesy Seattle PI

 

Activist Paul Alexander writes an articulate article in Medium that describes how Seattle’s emergency-level housing crisis can be directly and concretely addressed with a Public Bank, and why now is the time for grassroots activists to push their public officials.

Alexander explains that with a Public Bank, Seattle would be able to meet the needs demanded by advocacy groups. The city could also leverage a Public Bank’s power to help fund community land trusts and build public housing at dramatically lower costs, eliminating the issue private developers continually raise: that it’s not sufficiently profitable for private developers to build affordable housing. He writes:

“The right to housing must not wax and wane with the stock ticker. We must build institutions capable of holistically and comprehensively addressing our housing needs until there are no more impoverished citizens sleeping on Seattle’s streets, or devoting half their paychecks to the roofs over their heads —and we can start doing this right now.

"One of the largest expenses associated with public infrastructure projects is not the construction itself, but the interest on bonds that compound over time, which can account for nearly half the eventual cost. By creating a public bank, Seattle can directly loan money for housing projects at well below market interest rates; unlike private banks, they won’t be bound by a need to maximize profit margins. Seattle’s activist left must effectively communicate to local lawmakers and the public that no single funding source is capable of making as transformative an impact as a public bank. ...

"Regardless of one’s political persuasion, most can agree: it is not in the public’s interest to have so many Seattle residents sleeping in tents or on streets. Nor is the public good served by having so many residents squeezed out of their homes because they’re unable to afford skyrocketing rents. It’s both wasteful and morally repugnant. That’s precisely why Seattle activists should lean into the fight for an equitable charter by demanding rigorous and binding community oversight of a Seattle public bank’s investment decisions, so that it does not fall prey to the same mistakes as private banks.

[Read the full article]

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