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

Sawant, community groups ask City Council not to water down Seattle move-in fee cap — UPDATE: Approved

No, District 3 rep Kshama Sawant hasn’t joined the NASCAR circuit. Those 26 logos she is sporting this week represent what she says are “the 26 community, labor, and faith organizations” calling on the rest of her City Council colleagues and Mayor Ed Murray to pass legislation capping move-in fees in Seattle, the political battle Sawant has put most of her local muscle behind in the final months of 2016.

The bill again worked its way out of committee and will be in front of the full city council Monday afternoon. UPDATE: The bill has passed — along with an amendment described below. New renters can expect the restrictions to be in place sometime early in the new year.
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Cap on move-in fees wins committee approval at City Council

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-7-23-54-amA bill that could significantly limit the upfront costs of moving into many apartments in Seattle was voted out of a City Council committee Tuesday.

Under the measure from District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, landlords could only charge tenants the first full month’s rent upon move-in and would need to allow tenants to pay the security deposit, non-refundable move-in fees, and last month’s rent in installments. According to an example provided by Sawant, a tenant moving into an $1,800 a month unit today could pay $5,600 to sign the lease. Under her proposal, the same tenant would only have to pay $2,400 to move-in as other upfront costs would be spread out over six months.

The Energy and Environment committee passed the bill on to the full council, which is expected to vote on the measure in October.

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14+ things CHS heard at the Capitol Hill #rentersummit

Listening to the mayor talk about affordability? OK. Listening to your neighbors? Priceless (Image: CHS)

Listening to the mayor talk about affordability? OK. Listening to your neighbors? Priceless (Image: CHS)

Renting is not a stepping stone to homeownership for Sean Liming. The 49-year-old has been a renter on Capitol Hill for 22 years. “I think I’ll be a renter my whole life … I like being in that situation,” he said.

But there have been problems along the way. Liming said landlords have turned him away after finding out about his felony conviction. He is also one of the many renters on Capitol Hill to see his rent double overnight. Liming has never been involved with local politics, but when he heard about the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict organizing renters last year to push back against some of those very issues, Liming said he knew he wanted to get involved.

Around 100 people, many renters on Capitol Hill, gathered for the EcoDistrict’s Renter Summit Saturday afternoon at the Miller Community Center. The event was intended to be a launching point for a new renter power movement in the city. Many came as part of the EcoDistrict’s efforts to organize building ambassadors around Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Renter Summit seeks to build tenant power on Capitol Hill

13925584_1033358373447357_8610625736069031429_oRenters make up roughly 80% of Capitol Hill residents but organizers of an upcoming summit say most are left out of crucial public policy decisions. In an effort to kickstart a renter power movement in Seattle, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict is holding its first Capitol Hill Renter Summit September 24th.

“It’s about giving the silent majority of the neighborhood a voice,” said EcoDistrict director Joel Sisolak.

The summit will feature issue briefings followed by breakout discussion groups. Leading up to the event, EcoDistrict organizers reached out to renters on Capitol Hill to head the discussions. Mayor Ed Murray will give an opening address, and House Speaker Frank Chopp and State Senator Jamie Pederson will join other local elected officials for a live Q&A session.

Sisolak hopes the summit will inspire a pipeline of building ambassadors that will see themselves as the rightful advocates for a crucial segment of Seattle’s population. “The renters summit is more of a launch than an endpoint,” he said.

You can RSVP for the free event here. The first 50 people to sign up get a free “renter power” t-shirt. Continue reading

Sawant unveiling legislation to cap Seattle move-in fees

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is proposing new legislation to limit move-in costs and “ease moving barriers” for Seattle renters.

A representative from Sawant’s office tells CHS the the legislation proposes changes to many small aspects of move-in fees.

“When you take them together, they have an impact,” Sawant staffer Ted Virdone said.

Virdone said that when a new tenant moves in, landlords can currently charge a variety of nonrefundable fees including for pets and cleaning. Continue reading

Mandatory Housing Affordability in Seattle? Sign us up

From the Mandatory Housing Affordability presentation planned to be part of Tuesday's committee meeting

From the Mandatory Housing Affordability presentation planned to be part of Tuesday’s committee meeting

Seattle affordable housing proponents — there seem to be more and more even if Capitol Hill rents aren’t exactly dropping — say legislation coming before the City Council’s planning committee starting Tuesday morning could be the key to unlocking the lion’s share of the 20,000 units of affordable housing Mayor Ed Murray has called for.

Mandatory Housing Affordability — part of Seattle’s “Grand Bargain” — will link the creation of affordable housing with market-rate development by requiring all new multifamily buildings to make 5-8% of their units affordable to those making 60% of the area median income — or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund.

Here is the call to arms from Brock Howell of Seattle for Everyone:

If passed, MHA would unlock 6,100 much needed affordable homes across Seattle – that’s fully 30% of the 20,000 affordable homes that Mayor Murray plans to build in the next 10 years through HALA and the Housing Levy. MHA leverages development of new, market-rate housing to fuel affordable homes – it’s the HALA model writ large, and it’s an incredible opportunity for the city to put roofs over the heads of more people who need them.

Howell and others are hoping the turnout at City Hall Tuesday morning is strong. If you aren’t planning to be in City Council chambers, the easier way to participate is to email the committee’s chair, Rob Johnson, at rob.johnson@seattle.gov.

Tuesday’s committee discussion and public hearing will build on the resolution passed last fall as the Council members consider the legislation to update the Seattle Municipal Code. Rezoning and upzones in certain key areas like 23rd and Union are also part of the proposal: Continue reading

Sawant calls for support of Seattle ‘slumlord’ legislation

(Image: Council member Sawant via Facebook)

(Image: Council member Sawant via Facebook)

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is rallying the troops Monday afternoon to celebrate what should be City Council approval of a new Seattle “slumlord” law that will stop landlords from jacking up rents in poorly maintained buildings while also protecting tenants from surprise rent increases. The City Hall scrapper is calling for support of what she says is a key amendment passed out of committee but still vulnerable in Monday’s final vote:

An amendment was also passed to strengthen the bill by giving tenants more time to report violations, but it wasn’t unanimous. So we need to turn out and defend it. By speaking out and showing up, you can help ensure that we have the strongest ordinance possible.

UPDATE: The City Council passed the bill in an 8-0 vote on Monday. “We will use it to organize for a far larger tenants bill of rights,” Sawant said.

The new rules will restrict landlords from raising rents in properties that don’t meet required standards and will transfer enforcement from Seattle Police to the Department of Construction and Inspections. The rules would also require landlords provide at least 60-day notice on rent increases of 10% or more. The bill is sponsored by Sawant and is her first legislation in 2016 outside the Energy and Environment committee she chairs.

Sawant’s office says more pro-tenant legislation is moving forward including a bill “to massively expand relocation assistance for tenants forcibly evicted by dramatic rent increases” and a bill to cap “the exorbitant move-in fees that are found all over this city.” “Tenant protection laws are effective only to the extent that tenants are informed of their rights, are aware of their legal options, and are able to report violations,” a Sawant statement on the legislation reads. “We need to organize.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday night will bring a meeting of the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative:

Capitol Hill Renter Initiative June Meeting
Wednesday at 6 PM – 7 PM
12th Avenue Arts 1620 12th Ave, Seattle
We have a very special guest this month. Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez will be joining us! This is a rare opportunity to have a Councilmember in a small room. Bring your questions and thoughts you’d like to share with her. We’ll be ordering food. RSVP here to let us know if you are coming so we can get an accurate head count. See you there!

Agenda:
6pm – Welcome and Introductions
6:15pm – Conversation with Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez
6:35pm – Updates, Announcements, Next Steps (think about any information you want to share with the group)
6:45pm – Social Activity
7pm – End of Formal Meeting
7-7:30pm – We’ll stick around if folks want to hang out and/or work on special projects

You can learn more about the initiative in this CHS Community Post.

Plan would end permanent Airbnb-style rentals in Seattle

In a bid to make more of the city’s rental capacity available to honest to goodness renters — and in the latest attempt to regulate Seattle’s sharing economy — Seattle officials have unveiled a plan to clamp down on houses and apartments permanently listed for tourists on services like Airbnb and VBRO.

The proposal (PDF) seeks to distinguish people who are making some extra cash by occasionally renting out their homes for short-term stays and those who are renting out units year-round on a short-term basis.

“Property owners are shifting hundreds of homes from the long-term residential market to short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, and in doing so dangerously reduce our housing supply,” said Council member Tim Burgess in a statement.

Under the proposal, any apartment or house that does not have a permanent resident would be prohibited from having more than 90 nights of short-term stays per year. Permanent residents could rent out their homes above the 90-day cap if they receive a license from the city. Continue reading

Seattle considers ‘slumlord’ law to restrict rent increases

Last year, Sawant cited the 1906-built Celeste Apartments as an example of why Seattle needs to pass strong tenant’s rights legislation to limit “slumlord” rent increases

Last year, Sawant cited the 1906-built Celeste Apartments as an example of why Seattle needs to pass strong tenant’s rights legislation to limit “slumlord” rent increases

New rules that would prohibit landlords from acting like slumlords by jacking up rents in poorly maintained buildings while also protecting tenants from surprise rent increases will be considered by the Seattle City Council.

The legislation sparked last year by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant and now retired City Council member Nick Licata and refined by the Ed Murray administration will be taken up by the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee Wednesday morning.

The legislation includes six new elements including restricting landlords from raising rents in properties that don’t meet required standards and, maybe even more importantly, transferring enforcement from police to the newly formed Department of Construction and Inspections. The rules would also require landlords provide at least 60-day notice on rent increases of 10% or more:

  1. Prohibiting landlords from increasing the rents charged for dwelling units that do not meet basic maintenance standards. Continue reading

In midst of continuing Seattle apartment boom, Hill rents still climbing

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 6.12.46 PMLast March, Mayor Ed Murray set a goal of building 50,000 new apartment units in Seattle including roughly 30,000 market rate units to help alleviate the city’s intense housing crunch. However, market rate developers may already be on track to do much of that heavy lifting and in half the time. According to Dupre+Scott Apartment Advisors, Seattle will add some 26,000 new market rate apartments in three years.

“It’s pretty darn significant,” Mike Scott told City Council members during a briefing last week (video). “We’re basically doubling the housing stock.”

The growth is significant but only part of a longer term boom. Over the past three years, Seattle added roughly 17,000 units, according to Scott, putting the city on track to add 51,000 new market rate apartments from 2012-2019. The Capitol Hill/Eastlake housing stock would expand by just over 50% in that time period.

“It is uncertain how many of those units will actually get built,” Scott told CHS. “Most will probably happen, but if the economy turns or vacancies go up too much that will deter some of them.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Community Post | Why renters matter

Renters must be engaged about HALA. After all, renters comprise nearly half of Seattle’s citizenry and it is renters who face getting priced out of neighborhoods by rising rents.

Late last month, Mayor Murray hosted a cheerleading session for the City’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda or HALA. It was a packed room filled with enthusiasm for implementing the 65 recommendations that emerged last July in response to Seattle’s housing crisis. Comments by Sara Maxana, a homeowner in NW Seattle, were a highlight. Referring to the rapidly escalating value of homes like hers and the resulting impacts on renters, Maxana said:

“I don’t see why one class of people, homeowners, should be getting a windfall from the same phenomenon that is causing other people in Seattle to struggle,” she said. “I don’t think that’s okay.”

Before closing the meeting, Murray took a handful of questions from the crowd. “Guy in the Striped Shirt” asked an important question: “How will renters be engaged in discussions about HALA?”

The mayor responded very generally, saying that we need to engage everybody: owners and renters, young and old, etc. and etc. I would respond more directly. Renters must be engaged about HALA. After all, renters comprise nearly half of Seattle’s citizenry and it is renters who face getting priced out of neighborhoods by rising rents.

But engaging renters to address neighborhood issues isn’t easy. Continue reading