King County Council approves program intended to help fight displacement, promote equity among historically disadvantaged groups

Grants program and other resources will aim to prevent commercial and cultural displacement.

On March 15, The King County Council approved legislation aimed at fighting displacement and combating the effects of historical racism and injustice through establishment of a grant program among 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.”

The council recognized that King County has a history of structural racism that continues to have oppressive effects on Black, Indigenous and people of color.

A statement from the council claims that 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, read the council’s statement about the program.

“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.”

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

The first phase would include creating the Equitable Development Initiative 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 June 30 and the second phase will be due a year later, in 2023.