Inslee talks housing and homelessness during appearance at Pacific Lutheran University

Gov. Jay Inslee, seen here in his office in 2017, met with students at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland today.
Gov. Jay Inslee, seen here in his office in 2017, met with students at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland today. AP file photo, 2017

When Pacific Lutheran University students won the governor’s contest last November to register the most voters by a private institution, they learned an important lesson in politics.

When you make a difference, you reap rewards.

In this case, PLU students registered 262 students to vote — about 8 percent of the student body. Adding in voter pledge cards, the total is 1,100.

Winning the contest led to the PLU flag flying over the Legislative Building in Olympia. Student leaders had lunch with Gov. Jay Inslee. The celebratory trifecta was completed Monday when Inslee visited the campus to make brief remarks and answer questions for 15 minutes.

Students and others submitted 98 questions online for the governor.

“I only have 97 answers,” Inslee joked to the audience of about 140 at the Karen Hille Phillip Center for the Performing Arts.

Inslee, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, fielded a wide range of questions, including what he is doing about homelessness.

“Not everybody who is homeless has a chemical addiction problem. Not everybody who is homeless has a mental health issue,” the second-term governor said. “Those are two important parts about this, but there’s a lot of people getting up and going to work in the morning who just can’t afford a place to live because rents are going up. We have to do a whole bunch of things, not one thing.”

Inslee said the state is increasing funding for low-income housing and giving local governments more authority to finance and site housing developments.

“This is a contentious issue. We need to realize that with over 100,000 people moving into our communities every couple of years and we’re not building any more dirt, we are going to have to have increased density in some of our housing and that can become kind of controversial,” Inslee said.

“We need to change the nature of our housing, frankly. That becomes problematic. Change is hard, right? We have got to realize if we’re going to have any open space at all, we’re going to have to accept a little denser housing.”

Riley Dolan, a senior at PLU and civic engagement director for the student government, was the event’s moderator.

“I was super-grateful that Governor Inslee was able to come out and be open to answering questions that we had,” he said.