Sharon Shewmake

Candidate - State Repersentative, 42nd district pos. 2


Who are you?

Sharon Shewmake! I'm an economics professor at WWU, a mother of two children, a wife, and someone who has done research on housing markets, mostly looking at the energy implications and how our housing stock influences climate change but with values that include maintaining an affordable housing stock that allows all residents to thrive. When I teach urban economics at WWU, we talk extensively about the cost of housing and social justice issues surrounding housing.

Why are you running?

I want Washington State to be an example for climate change, the benefits of high quality preschool, and housing.

What are your top 3 priorities?

  1. I want to see really good climate policy that grows our economy and cuts pollution and that other states can use as an example.

  2. High quality pre-school produces about $6-9 worth of benefits for ever $1 invested. It cuts incarceration and saves taxpayers money in the long run. This is a policy that teachers want, stabilizes the finances of families, reduces human misery, builds human capital, saves money on public safety and frankly breaks cycles of intergenerational poverty. It's cruel and it's stupid that we haven't already done this.

  3. We need to build more affordable housing including fully funding the housing trust fund.

If elected, how are you going to make housing more affordable, dignified, and secure for working class people?

  1. For every 10 new households that have formed in Whatcom County, we have only built 7 new homes. You don't need to be an economist to see that this is the root of our housing affordability crisis. I would fully fund the housing trust fund. This benefits not just those who receive funding but others because now there aren't 10 people competing for 7 homes which relieves some of the price pressure.

  2. We need to generally attack poverty. We can do this with birth through 5 programs which help parents and the next generation. We can do this by fixing Washington State's upside-down tax code that means wealthy families pay 1/7th of their income in state taxes compared to low-income families.

  3. We can fully fund the Working Families Tax Rebate (WFTR) program which is a match to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs on the books and enjoys bi-partisan support. We already have a WFTR but we haven't devoted money to it. I think we should do that.

How would your housing policies advance equity and racial justice in our community?

Single family and restrictive zoning has historically been a way to exclude racial minorities from buying into neighborhoods and as a results is a large portion of the racial wealth gap. If we want to see racial justice we need to tear down the barriers that keep income groups separated (which is largely a local issue but the state can help in some ways) and find ways to build wealth for low-income populations (where the WFTR and other pro-poor policies would help).

How do you see housing connecting to other issues in our community?

Housing is one of the biggest expenses families face. When we have segregated housing it means that urban amenities and the "best" schools are only reserved for the wealthy. Integrated housing is fair, it’s better for individuals, families and kids. Removing barriers these kids face is one of the best investments we can make in our future and as a mother and a teacher it is personal to me that other peoples' babies have just as wonderful and meaningful opportunities as my own kids.

Would you increase revenue for affordable housing? If so, how?

Reduce carve outs in the B&O taxes and a capital gains tax. This is a priority. We are in a crisis.

What have you specifically done as an individual to support tenant rights and access to housing?

I'm a member of my neighborhood association and we fight for more inclusive housing as a board. I've spoken at City Council meetings in favor of ADUs and inclusive zoning. I'm a member of Bike Walk Bus Bellingham which argues for transit accessible and bike/ped accessibility for all of Bellingham. I teach urban economics and encourage my students to go out and get involved in these issues.


Yes/No Questions:

(If you can not answer YES with a full and honest commitment, answer NO.)

Asterisks ( * ) indicate a comment or explanation, listed at the bottom. 




Are you a renter?


Would you welcome new, multi-family, affordable and mixed-income housing developments in your neighborhood?



If elected, can you commit to sponsoring at least one bill to expand tenant rights in Olympia?



Do you support Rep. Nicole Macri’s (D) bill, HB 2583, to repeal the state-wide ban on rent regulation? This would allow local governments to make their own decisions on move-in fee reform and rent stabilization/control laws.


Do you support ‘Right of First Refusal’ laws for tenants of a complex up for sale by offering the tenants the option to purchase at fair market price?



Do you support amending the Residential Landlord Tenant Act to include ‘Just Cause’ eviction protections for tenants, meaning landlords can only evict tenants with proper cause, such as failure to pay rent or destruction of the property?


Do you support expanding the Washington Housing Trust Fund?



Do you support increasing progressive taxes (B&O, income or capital gains) to pay for affordable housing?



Do you support an Empty Homes Tax to pay for affordable housing?



Do you support a Land Value Tax or a Split-Rate Tax to pay for affordable housing?



Do you support Rep. June Robinson’s (D) bill, HB 2437, to allow significant new local funding to counties to fund investments in affordable housing without raising taxes, via a sales tax rebate?



Do you support the Bellingham Home Fund renewal?



Do you support increasing the amount of housing that is accessible to people with disabilities?



Do you support locations for safe camping and parking for our neighbors experiencing homelessness in Bellingham?



Do you support statewide laws that decriminalize homelessness?



Do you support statewide zoning policies that permit more home-building and denser housing near transit?



Do you support allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in all residential land for more housing options?



Do you support reducing the cost of homebuilding in areas served by transit by ending mandatory off-street parking?



Do you support statewide policies to streamline (reduce regulation such as excessive meetings and permits) the development of housing if a portion of the units were affordable to low- and moderate-income households?



If elected, would you seek an ongoing relationship with the Bellingham Tenants Union?



If elected, would you ask Bellingham Tenants Union to participate in community engagement processes that involves tenant law or housing justice issues?



If we endorse you, will you share this questionnaire on your website?




Comments ( * ):  

1.  Sharon: I’ve been a renter most of my adult life. We bought our first home 3 years ago. I know the struggle. 

2.  BTU: Would you like to explain your 'No" answer on Repealing the Ban on Rent Regulation?

Sharon: I could support something similar but we’d need to create an exemption that does keep in place a ban on the old school forms of rent regulation that we know don’t work.

BTU: That's good to hear. For more information on Rent Control/Stabilization, the pros/cons, and more thoughts on Sharon’s response, go here.  

3.  BTU: Here is some clarification and information on Sharon’s position on Just Case Eviction Protections.

Just like with rent regulation, there are many types of ‘Just Cause’ eviction protections. This policy brief outlines some of the variations. Almost all ‘Just Cause’ eviction protections accept owners removing apartments from the housing market and/or moving into the homes themselves or for family. Sharon supports Just Cause eviction protections, with the above reasons included.



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