Community & Policy Accomplishments
2015 – Exposed political corruption during "shakedown" by private developers. During his first campaign for city council Jon shed light on a corruption scandal involving downtown developer Triad Capital, who threatened to spend $200,000 in negative ads to sink his campaign if Jon didn't comply with their demands. Grant refused the threat, and instead took the story to The Seattle Times and exposed the shady deal. Specifically, Triad demanded that he direct low income tenants organizing with the Tenants Union while he was Director to withdraw a lawsuit that was holding up Triad's 400 million condo project. The tenants faced eviction from the developers and sued to block the unjust enrichment of the developer who was going to build multi-million dollar condos on public land with no affordable housing included in the deal with the city. As a result of these actions, the Vice-President of Triad was fired, the city killed the deal, the tenants won a multi-million dollar settlement, and the city recently brokered a better deal with over 20 million dollars going toward affordable housing and equitable development.
2015 – Sole vote to abstain on Mayor's "Grand Bargain" with developers. Jon was appointed to the Mayor's Housing Affordability & Livability Agenda (HALA) committee to design strategies to address our city's housing crisis. Jon used his position on the committee to push for the most bold housing solutions, successfully securing in the top ten recommendations a proposal to lessen barriers for tenants with conviction records to access housing. Jon criticized the body for having half of their 28 members representing the interests of private developers, giving outsized influence to special interests. Jon was the sole vote to abstain on the final proposal to have as little as 2% of each new apartment be dedicated affordable housing in parts of the city. Instead Jon published a bolder counter proposal so the community could see how much the city had bargained away against the public's interests.
2014 – Blocked the economic eviction of Central District tenants at Squire Park Plaza apartments. After the owner of a 60-unit affordable housing complex decided to sell off the building on the open market, tenants would have faced immediate displacement from rent hikes. The City of Seattle encouraged the sale of the building to pay off a loan the owner owed to the city, making a bad situation worse. While under Jon's leadership, the Tenants Union launched a campaign to save the building and hold the city accountable, resulting in the city and landlord quickly yielding to tenant demands to preserve the building's affordability by transferring it into the hands of a non-profit, saving everyone's homes.
2014 – Fought against displacement of longtime Ballard residents at the Lockhaven Apartments. Over a hundred senior citizens, working class folks, and people with disabilities had called the Lockhaven Apartments home, for some well over two decades. That changed when local developer Goodman Real Estate, whose CEO was a partner in Triad Capital, bought the building and hiked up rents. With assistance from the Tenants Union the residents got a year-long stay on rent increases, tens of thousands of dollars in relocation assistance, and retracted dozens of evictions notices. The tenants formed the Lockhaven Tenants Union and marched on Goodman's home, which is a private marina off the Ballard Locks. Through marching and direct actions tenants were able to force the developer to the negotiating table and win serious concessions for the tenants.
2014 – Defeated 500% Rent Increase by Seattle Housing Authority's "Stepping Forward" Policy. Under Jon's leadership the Tenants Union took a leadership role in forming a citywide coalition of public housing tenants in opposing a 500% rent increase on over 7,000 public housing tenants. After numerous demonstrations, Op-Eds, and direct actions the housing authority was forced to back down from its proposal that would have radically reshaped the racial and economic makeup of our city.
2013 – Passage of SB 5568 Fair Tenant Screening Act to expand domestic violence protections. Jon held a leadership role in the negotiations with state legislators and landlord trade groups to close gaping loopholes that resulted in domestic violence survivors to be denied housing for acquiring protection orders against abusers. The law finally made illegal the practice of landlords using screening reports to deny housing to tenants who recently survived and escaped abuse. (Photo with Governor)
2012 – Groundbreaking Passage of Rental Inspection Law to Hold Slumlords Accountable. Over 27,000 tenants in Seattle live in substandard conditions, forming a city within a city of residents suffering from black mold, cockroaches, exposed electrical wiring, and worse. Jon made holding slumlords accountable one of the Tenants Union's highest priorities, resulting in a multi-year campaign to overcome the landlord lobby's influence on city hall and organizing low income families living in substandard conditions across the city. This sustained campaign led to the passage of the Rental Registration & Inspection Ordinance (RRIO), which constituted a sea change in the balance of power between landlords and tenants. Now the city is obligated to enforce its own health and safety codes instead of placing enforcement on the backs of tenants. However, the landlord lobby was still able to weaken components of the law, and Jon plans to work swiftly to close loopholes and ensure all tenants have a home that is healthy and safe. (Photo with Mayor McGinn)
2011 – Passage of SHB 1266, first major revision to the Residential Landlord Tenant Act since 1996. Jon worked in coalition with other housing advocates at the state level to negotiate for significant improvements to tenant laws, the first time in over 15 years as part of the Residential Landlord Tenant Act Reform Workgroup.
2010 – Margola Community Fund – Jon led an effort to design and implement a community fund to improve rental housing conditions by issuing small grants to community based organizations. This was successfully done through a consensus process with the landlord industry. This resulted in the creation of a one-stop-shopping affordable housing search website to assist low income families find a home, and opened new tenant counseling clinics in undeserved communities in South Park and Lake City.
2010 – Halted Eviction of 240 HUD tenants at the Downtowner Apartments; changed national housing policy. The owner of a large HUD-funded apartment in the International District planned to evict all 240 subsidized tenants, many of whom were senior citizens and lived in the building for 30 years. The building was home to significant immigrant and refugee communities, with at least four languages spoken in the building. The Tenants Union organized with the tenants resulting in an injunction against the evictions. Jon flew out to Washington D.C. with tenant leaders to directly pressure HUD officials to change their policy of denying the tenants Section 8 vouchers. Joined with other tenants from across the country, in particular Boston MA, the campaign worked and HUD reformed its PIH Notice 2001-41 to ensure that tenants facing displacement in HUD buildings would automatically get Section 8 vouchers to keeps rents affordable and prevent displacement. This policy change had a national impact, protecting tens of thousands of other tenants across the county in similar HUD housing.
2010 – Rebuilt the Tenants Union of Washington State. After severe funding cuts and loss of staff, Jon turned the troubled agency around which now has two offices in Seattle and Spokane, doubling its operating budget, tripling the number of tenants served, and won multiple policy and community organizing campaigns in just a few short years.