Head of Tenants Union Steps Down to Focus on City Council Campaign
For Immediate Release
After nearly five years of serving as the Executive Director of the Tenants Union of Washington State (TU), Jon Grant is stepping down to focus on his campaign for a seat on Seattle City Council.
Grant announced his campaign for Position 8, a race that will challenge current Council President Tim Burgess. The Tenants Union has promoted from within, with Liz Etta taking over as Interim Executive Director. She was previously the TU’s Operations & Policy Director, working alongside Jon in overseeing the organization’s fundraising, administration, and policy advocacy.
“The Tenants Union has never been more prepared for weathering a transition. For the first time in years we have an operating reserve and diversified funding sources to make this transition a success, as well as an incredibly dedicated staff and Board to advance the TU’s mission to new heights,” Grant said.
Grant cites the need to focus on his campaign given the challenge of running city-wide against Council President Tim Burgess, one of the most heavily funded candidates in the race. Contrasting himself to Burgess, Grant has pledged to not take any contributions from private real estate developers to make it clear his priorities stand with people and the community. His platform is to push for rent stabilization, more affordable housing, greater police accountability and campaign finance reform.
Grant became the Executive Director in 2010, taking the organization over at a time of crisis with an uncertain future. In just a few short years under his leadership, the organization went from almost closing its doors to having the biggest budgets and staffing in decades. Now with ten staff members, and having opened new offices in Seattle and across the state in Spokane, the Tenants Union is truly a statewide presence and powerful force to be reckoned with.
In Grant’s first campaign as Director he led the fight to stop mass evictions at the Downtowner Apartments in the International District, Seattle. The successful campaign led to a national policy change that resulted in almost a hundred low-income tenants at the Downtowner getting new rental subsidies, effectively increasing the affordable housing stock of Seattle and potentially saving the homes of over ten thousand other subsidized tenants across the nation.
In 2012 under Grant’s direction the TU launched a major campaign to pass the “Healthy Homes” Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance, where he negotiated directly with the rental industry and city officials. After effectively mobilizing the community to pass this critical law it will raise the health and safety standards for buildings of an estimated 27,000 Seattle renters. He played a key role in passing the Fair Tenant Screening Act (SB 5568) in 2013, which expanded statewide protections for tenants who are victims of domestic violence. Last year Grant made the Seattle Housing Authority’s “Stepping Forward” rent hike proposal an organizational priority, helping to build a tenant movement that put a stop to the 400% rent hike for over 7,000 low income working families. Grant made it a priority to start organizing across the state in Spokane, where TU organizers are building a local movement to pass a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance.
Grant also has been playing a key role in crafting the Tenants Union’s Anti-Displacement Campaign, a multi-pronged effort to organize tenants facing economic evictions and to win rent stabilization for the City of Seattle. He currently sits on the Mayor’s Housing Affordability & Livability Agenda (HALA) committee, where he will remain an active member representing the interests of tenants and complete the work started in earnest to respond to the city’s affordable housing crisis.
Grant announced his run for Seattle City Council in February, and while the decision to step down will allow him to focus on his campaign, he will remain available to offer strategic guidance to the Tenants Union to ensure a successful transition.
To view the Tenants Union’s corresponding press release, click here.