City Hall is packed pic.twitter.com/4acFPXOYBb
— Renaissance the Poet (@RenaissanceTP) September 21, 2015
In a surprising turn of events at City Council, president Tim Burgess introduced a resolution calling on Olympia to lift the state ban on rent control Monday afternoon. Burgess, considered to be among the most conservative council members, previously said he opposed asking the Legislature to lift the rent control ban. Burgess missed last week’s 3-3 vote on a similar resolution being carried forward by Kshama Sawant.
UPDATE 4:10 PM: The City Council passed Burgess’s resolution in an 8-1 vote with Council member John Okamoto giving the sole “no” vote. Burgess said he introduced the resolution after deciding the Council “needed a fresh start.”
“Dogmatic rhetoric blocked pragmatic steps forward,” Burgess said. “As Council President, I drafted an alternative resolution that better captures the intent expressed by most councilmembers: to request local control for local solutions.”
A stripped down statement compared to Sawant’s, Burgess’s resolution essentially asks the state to do same thing. The resolution argues 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.” Burgess ended discussion of the resolution by reiterating that it does not take a position on the actual merits of rent control.
In contrast to last week’s long and heated discussion of Sawant’s resolution, Burgess’s resolution passed with relatively little discussion.
“I don’t particularly care who carries the pen as long as the point gets across,” said Council member Nick Licata, who cosponsored the previous resolution with Sawant.
Sawant praised activists for putting pressure on elected officials and said that the city could not build its way out of its housing affordability crisis. “Why is this happening now? It is happening now because we, our movement, has brought pressure to bear,” she said.
Council member Tom Rasmussen said he didn’t support Sawant’s resolution because it made assertions about the experiences of other cities that he didn’t endorse. He also pointed out that it would likely take years for the Legislature to actually repeal the ban on rent control.
Resolutions are not binding law, they state the intent or opinion of the Council.
Earlier in the meeting, the Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the end of youth detention. Council member Mike O’Brien, who sponsored the resolution, thanked teen activists with Ending the Prison Industrial Complex for putting pressure on the City and County to address youth detention.
Original report: Burgess notified colleagues about his resolution just hours before Monday’s meeting, when rumors began circulating that he intended to put the measure to vote. Read Burgess’s proposed resolution, below:
In a media release sent just before Monday’s 2 PM meeting, Sawant called Burgess’s move the result of mass pressure that forced the “establishment to concede.” She also urged her colleagues to wait to vote on October 4th “when the public can be there to celebrate the victory and send a powerful message to Olympia.”
“If this resolution passes, it will be a major victory for our affordable housing movement,” Sawant said in a statement. “It is an essential step forward in lifting the ban on rent regulations and bringing an end to economic evictions in this city.”
Sawant and Council member Nick Licata were the sponsors of last week’s rent control resolution and were joined by Council member Mike O’Brien in supporting the measure.
Meanwhile, the City Council was also set to vote on two other Burgess measures related to tenant protection. One would require landlords to give 90 days notice when they plan to move into the unit or move in an immediate family member. Currently, landlords only have to give 20 days notice for such evictions. The other requires affordable housing providers give the City 60 days notice before selling properties. Burgess introduced the measures in May as Burgess’s top challenger in the citywide Council Position 8 race — former Tenant’s Union director Jon Grant — was gaining ground heading towards the August primary. UPDATE 3:35 PM: The City Council unanimously passed Burgess’s two tenant protection bills.