Ask any small business owner in Seattle like us about the big long-term challenges to their company, and we’ll tell you some version of the same thing:
We worry that our employees won’t be able to afford to live in Seattle.
One effect of being the fastest growing city over the last decade and skyrocketing housing costs is that it’s made it harder and harder for hourly workers like our employees to live in the same communities where they work. Think about your barista, your server at your favorite restaurant, or the nursing assistant at your doctor’s office. Too many of them have been pushed out of the same communities they serve. For many, getting to work now means an expensive, long and frustrating commute into Seattle.
That’s why we believe the city and our region needs to do more to invest in housing, especially near transit.
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s “Fare Share” plan for Uber and Lyft is a step in the right direction. As small business owners, here’s why we support it:
First, it would ensure Uber and Lyft follow the same wage regulations we as small business owners have been following for several years. With this proposal, Uber and Lyft drivers would make at least a minimum wage after expenses. No worker in Seattle should earn below the minimum wage.
Second, it would invest in transit and transportation projects — including fully funding the downtown Center City Connector, so more of our employees can get around Seattle on a new connected streetcar network.
Third, and most importantly for us, it would ensure that the city can support more than 500 new affordable homes near transit for people earning between $15 and $25 per hour — people like our employees.
Trust us: As small business owners, we appreciate the positive impact that Uber and Lyft have had on Seattle. Just as we use them, so do our customers. Last year, Uber and Lyft were responsible for 24 million rides according to city of Seattle data. And just as cities like Chicago have done, we can have a modest charge on Uber and Lyft rides, invest that revenue in housing, including housing near transit for workers, and continue to see Lyft and Uber grow in this market and succeed as billion-dollar companies.
The mayor’s proposal includes a small additional charge of 51 cents, which will fund housing, transit and protections for drivers. Currently the city of Seattle charges 24 cents per ride to fund wheelchair accessible taxis and regulate the ride-share industry. This modest increase will generate more than $133 million in revenue to fund some of the city’s most pressing priorities.
Putting Mayor Durkan’s Fare Share plan into action alone won’t solve all of Seattle’s housing affordability and workforce challenges. The city still needs to do more to support small businesses, to address the impact of homelessness, and to build more low- and middle-income housing.
But the Fare Share plan will move us down the road toward once again being a city where our small business employees can afford to actually live in the same communities as their customers. That’s a future we need, and a step worth taking.
It’s time for a Fare Share in Seattle.