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

Seattle tenant rights rally, pop-up renters clinic to greet landlord trade show

Tenant rights, labor, and housing advocate groups are planning a day of protests and education to counterbalance the presence of landlords from around the state at an industry trade show at the convention center downtown Tuesday.

The Rally for Tenant Rights will start around 11 AM at Westlake Center. Organizers say State Representative Nicole Macri, and City Council members Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda are scheduled to attend: 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.

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

Starting on Capitol Hill, tenant rights bootcamps will boost renter knowledge, neighborhood by neighborhood

Seattle Still Life:  Capitol Hill Mid-Century Modern Apartments and the Space Needle

When it comes to what CHS readers thought were the most important Capitol Hill stories of 2016, Capitol Hill Station was an easy runaway winner. But it could be argued that a split vote over Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda and the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative should qualify for a close second. 2017 will bring a new opportunity for Capitol Hill renters to keep pushing Seattle forward on a path to creating a more affordable city.

“Number one is to know and assert their rights,” organizer Devin Silvernail tells CHS about priorities for Seattle tenants in the new year and upcoming “bootcamps” to help educate renters on Capitol Hill and across the city. “I’d say a close second is advocating for things that can help them and their neighbors.” Continue reading