Seattle City Council approves nation’s first Renters’ Commission

Council member Tim Burgess

Council member Tim Burgess

Applause followed the City Council’s unanimous approval of an ordinance creating a Seattle Renters’ Commission on Monday.

“This was truly a grassroots effort that started up on Capitol Hill and will now benefit the entire city of Seattle,” Council member and prime sponsor Tim Burgess said.

“We just want to give renters a formal voice here at City Hall,” he said. “… Renters need landlords and landlords need renters, so if this commission can help bridge that relationship then that will be a positive move for our city.” Continue reading

Protest against displacement at 23rd and Union targets landowner’s Madrona home, sparks scuffle at Uncle Ike’s

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

A protest against gentrification and displacement in the Central District that followed the eviction of a longtime neighborhood activist from his 24th and Spring home showed just how personal the tumult around change can be as the Madrona home of a 23rd and Union property owner was targeted — and the owner of a controversial marijuana store momentarily lost his cool Saturday night.

Protesters Saturday night gathered at 23rd and Union outside the office space where the Black business incubator Black Dot is being booted from the teed-up-for-redevelopment Midtown Center. The protest was a planned response after the eviction of Omari Tahir-Garret from the block earlier in the week. The rally and march eventually traveled all the way to Madrona where protesters said they were targeting the home of Hugh Bangasser, head of the family partnership that owns the Midtown Center and is planning to sell the property for redevelopment.

But the sparks flew late in the night after the march returned to 23rd and Union and organizer Cliff Cawthon brought the group to the parking lot of “gentrifier” Uncle Ike’s where the I-502 pot shop was once again surrounded by a mix of protesters, Seattle Police, and Ike’s security employees. Continue reading

Yes on I-127 effort underway to put Seattle rent transparency initiative on ballot

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.31 PM

Current rental cost datasets must be collected from sources like Craigslist while developers often have access to the most robust reporting based on property management analysis

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.25 PM On Monday, the City Council is expected to approve formation of the Seattle Renters’ Commission, thought to be the first commission of its kind representing tenant interests at a United States city hall. Another group is beginning its work in the rain this Friday afternoon to also create a better, more transparent, and more trackable future for Seattle renters.

Yes on I-127 have been given approval to begin collecting the some 16,000 20,638 or signatures they will need to get their initiative on the ballot calling for Seattle landlords to provide detailed breakdowns of rents and rent increases to tenants and share that information with the city. “By breaking down costs included in monthly rent, tenants can better understand cost of rents and rent increases associated with their homes,” the group contends. “They can also use this information to plan and prepare for the future.” Proponents say the initiative would give the city “an apparatus to track rent trends.” “This allows both the city and its residents to study and understand our rental market,” they write.

Devin Silvernail tells CHS the initiative is an outgrowth of volunteers coming together through the tenant bootcamps his Be:Seattle is organizing across the city. The next camp, by the way, is next week in the Central District.

Silvernail said the effort to collect signatures for I-127 by September to make the ballot this fall — 10% of the total number of votes in the last mayoral election is the goal — is underway and you should expect to see volunteers around Capitol Hill Station.

You can learn more at whatsinmyrent.com.

Capitol Hill tenant rights group wants your voice to support Seattle Renters’ Commission legislation

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 3.18.44 PMLegislation to form a first in the nation City Hall commission representing tenants could have its final session in front of a Seattle City Council committee Wednesday and the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative is calling for a show of support to help push the bill through to a final vote:

We need renters at this meeting to show the Council and the City that we are civically engaged and eager to have our voices heard. As we move closer to the full council vote, we must continue to show up at key events for this ground-breaking piece of legislation. Equally as important as attending this meeting, we need renters there to give a short (1-2 min) testimony. This testimony could be as simple as sharing your renter story and expressing your opinion on this piece of legislation. See you there!

Can’t attend this meeting? Take 5 minutes to email/call the council!
Council contact information here:
https://www.seattle.gov/council/meet-the-council

The legislation will be part of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee’s morning session starting with public comment at 9:30 AM. Take a moment to add a brief email comment tonight.

CHS wrote here on early support for the Seattle Renters’ Commission. A substitute version of the bill will be up for discussion Wednesday. You can see the draft marked with changes in red here (PDF). You’ll note that the express inclusion of “renters who have experienced homelessness” as a desired part of the commission’s makeup is the most significant change.

The bill would create a 15-member commission to give renters in the city a voice on not only tenant rights and affordability issues but also related concerns like transportation access and economic development. It is also hoped to help further shape initiatives under the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

UPDATE: The legislation has been passed out of committee and will head to the full council on Monday where it is expected to be approved. Officials hope for the commission to begin meeting this summer after a spring application and approval process.

Seattle Renters’ Commission bill sees early support in City Hall debut

The proposed Seattle Renters’ Commission made its debut in the City Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee meeting last week. Early signs indicate good support for the proposed 15-member commission that aims to give renters in the city a voice on not only tenant rights and affordability but also related issues like transportation access and economic development.

“There’s a lot of issues that touch renters and they’re not often at the table,” said Sera Day, legislative assistant to council member Tim Burgess, prime sponsor of the ordinance.

“As rents continue rising, it’s critical that renters are given space to engage city government with a strong and organized voice,” Capitol Hill Community Council president Zachary DeWolf said Friday. “… This ordinance will create a platform for renters to get engaged in civic life and fully invest in their neighborhoods and ultimately our city of Seattle.”

Sierra Hansen, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in support of the commission.

“I think that this is an amazing effort among Capitol Hill residents that will benefit folks across Seattle,” Hansen said. Continue reading

Central District Tenant Rights Bootcamp

Trying to get repairs? Worried about losing your deposit? Confused about new Seattle tenant laws? Worried about eviction?

Tenant Rights Bootcamps are a neighborhood-by-neighborhood series teaching renters how to to assert their rights, find solutions to various issues, and make change in their community.

Tenants walk away from Bootcamps with a better understanding of their rights, current Seattle landlord/tenant laws, and resources to help in trying times. They will also have the opportunity to sit and talk with someone knowledgeable in WA State tenant law.

With Tenant Rights Bootcamps, renters don’t need to search for answers. We bring resources to the people.

Tenant Rights Bootcamps are a partnership between Be:Seattle Organizing and the Legal Action Center.

This Bootcamp is co-hosted by organizers from SAFE

More info at seattletenantbootcamps.org.

Capitol Hill renters might be getting slightly better deal in 2017 — but new commission is about more than rents

A post shared by Tatiana Gill (@rupeegroupie) on

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.25 PM Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 4.11.31 PMFriday morning, the Seattle City Council is taking its first steps toward forming a first of its kind commission to represent renters at City Hall. Formation of the Seattle Renters’ Commission comes as rents for the first time in ages appear to possibly be softening on Capitol Hill — but immediately lower rents aren’t necessarily the goal. The city is going to need political help widening the new apartment pipeline to keep new construction in motion and new apartments coming into the Seattle market.

“Rising rents are pushing residents out of the city, and that’s unacceptable,” Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien representing Northwest Seattle’s District 6 said. “Low-income renters are nearly twice as likely as homeowners to be displaced by gentrification. I believe that the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring much needed perspective to our policy work about how we can grow equitably and inclusively.”

O’Brien is talking about lots of things — Source of Income Discrimination and Move In Fees legislation, enforcement of existing laws like the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, and the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance — but he is also, of course talking about HALA. Continue reading

Neighborhood by neighborhood, Seattle working out HALA and Mandatory Housing Affordability changes

Some Miller Park residents are not happy with the proposed zoning changes for their neighborhood in the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

Those residents will get an opportunity to voice their thoughts in small group discussions following a presentation on HALA, Urban Villages, and the Mandatory Housing Affordability proposal at a Community Design Workshop at 6 PM on Tuesday at the Miller Community Center.

Spencer Williams, a legislative assistant to City Council member Rob Johnson, said the input collected from community members at the workshop as well as from open houses the city has hosted and online and elsewhere will be analyzed by the Office of Planning and Community Development.

Madison-Miller Urban Village Community Design Workshop

“The meeting is happening many months prior to there being a final proposal before the council,” Williams told CHS. “We are really trying to stay engaged early.” Continue reading

Proposed Seattle Renters’ Commission will tackle tenant rights, affordability

Capitol Hill’s calls for a Seattle Renters’ Commission will soon be answered creating what is likely the first such official body in the nation.

CHS has learned legislation to create a 15-member commission to represent tenants rights and weigh in on issues of development and affordability could be introduced as early as Monday.

“The goal is to attract folks across the whole spectrum,” the Capitol Hill Community Council’s Zachary DeWolf said. “Families, seniors, geographic diversity, vouchers, newer units, older units. Everyone.”

The offices of Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess, Mike O’Brien, and Lisa Herbold have been working to finalize the proposal that comes as Seattle residents continue to face one of the most expensive rental markets… in the world.

Continue reading

Seattle’s State of the City 2017: $55M homelessness levy, soda tax for schools, Trump immigration push-back

At Northgate’s Idris Mosque Tuesday morning, Mayor Ed Murray gave his 2017 State of the City address, announcing plans to increase investments to further address homelessness and education disparities, and to continue to support immigrants and refugees in Seattle. Included in the speech were plans to activate a city emergency system usually reserved for bad weather and protests to provide more resources for helping the area’s homeless, a proposal for a $55 million property levy to fund homelessness services, and the floating of a possible Seattle soda tax to help fund schools. Video and the full text of Murray’s speech is below.

For Seattle, the biggest news of the speech will likely be the homeless levy proposal. The plan will go to city voters this August to ask them to approve an increase in the commercial and residential property tax of around $13 per month for the median household, according to the mayor’s office. Murray said that a coalition including entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, Downtown Emergency Services Center executive director Daniel Malone, and City Council members Debora Juarez and Sally Bagshaw will lead an advisory group to create the funding package for the proposal.

The mayor also announced a new offensive to push back on Trump administration immigration policies. Murray said the city will send Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple federal departments, including the Department of Homeland Security, in response to President Donald Trump’s actions affecting immigrants and refugees. Murray is seeking to determine potential enforcement actions the federal government may take against Seattle and other sanctuary cities and details about changes to travel and immigration policy.

“We believe that the rule of law is on our side,” Murray said, adding that Seattle will take legal action if the federal departments do not provide timely responses.

Murray’s State of the City announcements:

Murray said he also plans to meet with other regional mayors to about remaining safe sanctuary cities.

“Remaining open to all is a fundamental value of the city,” Murray said. “Seattle is a great city because of immigrants and refugees.” Continue reading