Sawant says she will make new push on Seattle rent control, ordinance against ‘Economic Evictions’

(Image: Seattle City Council)

Building on recommendations from the Seattle Renters’ Commission, City Council member Kshama Sawant announced two measures Monday aimed would alleviate some of the burden for Seattle renters. The first is a proposal to enact a Seattle rent control ordinance. The second, the Economic Evictions Assistance Ordinance, would look to protect tenants against substantial rent increases.

“We have two choices,” Sawant said at a Monday morning press conference at City Hall to announce her planned proposals. “One, just sit on our hands and expect that some day, in the distant future, the Democratic establishment will gather the courage to break from the real estate lobby and finally stand with us. We’ve done that kind of waiting for 40 years.”

“Or we can begin the fight here.” Continue reading

Kenton Apartments tenants say they’re facing another Capitol Hill ‘economic eviction’

(Image: Milestone Tenants Fight Back)

A group of tenants is hoping to organize against the new owners of the 1926-built Capitol Hill brick apartment building they call home and fight back against what they say is an “economic eviction” underway on 16th Ave E.

“Tenants have been here as long as 11 years and we’re invested in staying in our homes in a way that is affordable and sustainable,” the Milestone Tenants Fight Back group writes. “We know the only way to do this is through our collective action and with the support of our broader community. In other words, we want to stay and fight!”

According to King County records, a company operated by Milestone Properties closed its purchase of the Kenton Apartments for $4.6 million in late January. The owner and manager of apartments in Seattle’s University District, Queen Anne, Greenwood, Interbay, Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Wallingford neighborhoods purchased the 300-block 16th Ave E property from its longtime family owners. Continue reading

Born on Capitol Hill, Tenant Rights Bootcamps training renters for change in Seattle

(Image: Be:Seattle)

Devin Silvernail always starts with the basics: Read your lease, and know exactly what’s in it before you sign it. Document everything. Do everything in writing (and no, texting does not count). That’s the “tenant rights 101” many of us know.

But did you know that there’s a ban on source of income discrimination in Seattle? Or that landlords are prohibited by law to screen tenants based on criminal convictions? Or that there’s a cap on move-in fees for renters can be charged? That you can organize in a renters union in your building?

In the grand scheme of things, not that many people do. Silvernail, who organizes Tenant Rights Bootcamps all around Seattle, thinks they should. That’s why he’s made informing renters of their rights part of his life’s work. “Knowing your rights is a really powerful tool,” he says. “You can recognize when a situation isn’t good when you’re unjustly evicted or taken advantage of, or owed relocation assistance.”

When we get Silvernail on the phone, he’s out walking around Capitol Hill — where renters, including Silvernail himself, are the majority — posting bright yellow flyers up for an upcoming Tenant Rights Bootcamp this Wednesday, March 6 at Capitol Hill’s Wildrose bar. The event, geared towards the LGBTQ+ community, is co-organized with the Gender Justice League, the Tenants Union of Washington and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant who is running for reelection this year.

LGBTQ Community Tenant Rights Bootcamp

“A lot of LGBTQ+ folks wonder about background checks. If folks haven’t had the same name their whole lives, how does that affect them? Can their landlord refuse them? We can quell fears around that, as well as around discrimination and protected classes,” Silvernail says while the stapler clicks punctuate his words.

“Still, 99% of the workshop will apply to anyone, and open to everyone who wants to come.” Continue reading

Building by building, apartment by apartment, Capitol Hill short-term units coming back on market for long-term renters

This week, you could rent eight apartments in 15th Ave’s Murray Hill building for short-term stays. That will change by May 1st.

Seattle affordability warrior, before you begin your wave of Capitol Hill vigilantism against buildings you believe are skirting the city’s new short-term rental regulations, chill out and wait until May.

“We are planning a mixture of long term rental and Airbnb,” Cathy Qui tells CHS about the plan — within 120 days — for the Murray Hill Apartments, the 15th Ave building she and her husband purchased for just over $4.1 million last March. Continue reading

City Council begins work to address Seattle’s eviction problem

86.5% of eviction filings in the study were for nonpayment — more than half of those were for one month or less of unpaid rent (Source: Losing Home report)

Last year, a study of Seattle evictions showed disproportionate impacts to women and Black renters in the city and how evictions are tied to rising levels of homelessness and housing insecurity. In the first step toward working on legislation to address problems around evictions, the Seattle City Council is working on a new Eviction Prevention Resolution hoped to be introduced later this month.

“”I think the way we’ve structured this resolution is to be less focused on the identification of particular solutions, but instead working from the Losing Home report lifting up their identification of the problems and laying out a timeline for the council to work on identifying the solutions necessary to address those problems,” Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee chair Lisa Herbold said Tuesday in a discussion of an early draft of the resolution, below. Continue reading

Study of Seattle evictions shows disproportionate impacts to women, Black renters

CHS found a woman’s possessions spread across a parking strip off 12th Ave after a 2017 eviction (Image: CHS)

A newly released report from the commission that has Mayor Jenny Durkan’s ear on women’s issues in the city digs into a year’s worth of data around evictions in Seattle and shows that women tenants make up more than 80% of cases in which a small amount of money costs a renter their home in Seattle. The study of 2017 eviction cases in the Seattle city limits also shows how unfair the process is to Black renters who are evicted at a rate 4.5 times what would be expected based on Seattle demographics. Meanwhile, more than 17% of the city’s 1,218 evictions came here in the neighborhoods of Seattle City Council District 3 — the third highest total in the study. By ZIP Code, one of the largest clusters of evictions in the city in 2017 came in the 98122 area covering the Central District.

“Eviction proceedings, also known as ‘unlawful detainers,’ are scheduled every day in the King County Superior Court, and while this eviction machine is unseen by the majority of the city, the results reverberate far outside the courthouse,” the report from the Seattle Women’s Commission and the Housing Justice Project begins. “While a month of unpaid rent might be an inconvenience for a landlord, an eviction can mean life or death for a tenant. National research shows eviction is one of the leading causes of homelessness.”

The groups held a press conference to announce the findings — and the study’s conclusions on what to do about the impact of evictions — Thursday morning at Seattle City Hall. The Housing Justice Project is a homelessness prevention program providing legal services for low-income tenants facing eviction while the Seattle Women’s Commission is an advisory body to the mayor, city council, and City Hall departments.

Gina Owens talked about life as a single mother renting in Seattle and what happened when she and her daughter were evicted. “One emergency, one missed paycheck” is the difference between a home and living in the streets in Seattle, she said.

A full copy of the report is below but here are some of the main findings: Continue reading

Rental study finds challenging times for Seattle renters *and* landlords — and confirms what you probably already assumed about Capitol Hill’s new, larger buildings: They charge more

(Image: Excelsior Apartments)

Outcomes of a new effort at City Hall to study rental housing trends show challenges for both tenants and landlords — and that larger developments are asking for higher rents than smaller buildings.

A group of researchers from the University of Washington surveyed both landlords and renters in the Seattle area to learn about the state of the rental market and the effectiveness of recent ordinances enacted by the City Council.

While the Seattle Rental Housing Study did not deal with broader trends, such as overall rent prices, it did deal with the attitudes of those involved in the rental market. The research was required by two city ordinances passed in 2016 and included in the 2017 budget. Ordinance 125114 prohibits unfair practices for screening and choosing tenants and Ordinance 125222 limits security deposits and non-refundable move-in fees.

Despite their goal of aiding renters, the team’s focus groups had no familiarity with the new ordinances and were skeptical about their effectiveness.

“All of the renters that we spoke to in all of the focus groups, they expressed a high level of barriers to housing access,” research lead Kyle Crowder said at a July 24th meeting of the Seattle City Council’s renters rights committee about recent movers his team surveyed,

The barriers renters are referring to are more numerous than just the lack of affordability in Seattle, but that was one of the most frequently cited issues.

“The renters that we spoke to in our focus groups feel squeezed financially by the housing market,” Crowder, a professor of sociology at the UW, said at the meeting. “That was a common theme.”

Other problems mentioned by renters were a “lack of transparency in application/leasing process” and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or source of income, especially for voucher recipients, according to the study. Continue reading

Rent bidding banned in Seattle — for now

Amid concern about the growing use of the services jacking up student rents in the University District, the Seattle City Council Monday voted unanimously to temporarily ban so-called “rent bidding” in the city.

Monday’s vote will ban the use of services like Rentberry for apartments in the city for one year to give officials time to study the impact the services could have on Seattle affordability. The Office of Housing, Office of Civil Rights, and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections are now on the hook for a report on the services.

The services work by creating “transparent” rental auctions where potential tenants have “the ability to submit custom offers.”

Last month, CHS reported on the few Capitol Hill properties utilizing the services and the concerns raised about the practice in the Bay Area real estate market. One report on the Rentberry service quoted the company’s founder taking credit for raising rents 5% above listing prices in the already ultra-expensive San Francisco and San Jose markets.

Under the moratorium approved Monday, the Seattle ban can be extended by the City Council if it is determined officials need more time to evaluate the services.

Legislation to end state ban on rent control off the table in Olympia

Capitol Hill’s state Rep. Nicole Macri won’t be able to deliver an end to Washington’s ban on rent control this year. Her legislation to repeal the ban on rent regulation in the state died in committee last week in Olympia.

The 43rd District representative didn’t address the defeat in her most recent update to constituents but she did count down some of the legislation she has sponsored aimed “keep people in their homes” including HB 1570, a bill to make a state real estate transaction fee permanent “to fund crucial housing services like emergency, DV, youth and young adult shelters; eviction prevention, move-in assistance and allows rental vouchers to be used in both for-profit and nonprofit homes.”

As for rent control, in 2015, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution calling for the statute to be changed and arguing municipalities should have the power to pass laws that “increase the supply of rent-restricted units and that protect tenants from sudden and dramatic rent increases, without causing a negative impact on the quality or quantity of housing supply.” Seattle Met’s Hayat Norimine reports that, despite the setback, city officials are optimistic the mood might be shifting in Olympia.

You can hear more from Macri plus her counterparts Rep. Frank Chopp and Sen. Jamie Pedersen at the 2018 43rd District Town Hall:

43rd Legislative District town hall

 

To push back on short-term rental boom, Seattle adds new Airbnb regulations

The Seattle City Council followed through Monday on a second piece of legislation to further regulate the short term rental market in the city and raise new funding from the industry.

Council members approved a package of rules that will limit owners to only two units at a time on services like Airbnb. The new rules will also require the platform companies including Airbnb and Expedia to pay for a permit to operate in Seattle. The approved legislation calls on the city to study how much the platform companies should be charged to help pay for regulation and enforcement of the industry. Continue reading