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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.”

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The statewide ban on rent control was passed in 1981.

In two letters to the City Council, the Seattle Renters’ Commission urged the body to implement rent control, pending a repeal of a statewide ban on the practice, and extend the rent increase notice period to 180 days.

The commission unanimously approved both proposals, according to co-chair Jessica Westgren.

“We have a renters’ affordability housing crisis happening in Seattle; we have way more renters than we do apartments available and affordable units are fewer and [farther] between,” Westgren said. “While we look at other options, because housing affordability comes with many different options, one of the best ways to help people out is to increase their protections.”

Westgren says she personally felt emboldened by a recent move by the Oregon Legislature to cap rent increases, the first such statewide rent control measure. The council passed a resolution in 2015 pushing the Legislature to allow local governments to implement their own rent control policies.

Sawant has previously introduced the 180-day proposal, which would force landlords to pay for relocation assistance for renters that decide to move out after landlords raise rents by 10% or more within a one-year period. The tenants would receive first and last month’s rent as well as a security deposit — roughly equal to three months worth of rent — from their landlord if their household income is under 80% area median income (AMI), under the measure.

In 2018, 80% AMI in Seattle was $56,200 for an individual and $80,250 for a family of four, according to the city’s Office of Housing.

Currently, if the rent increase is less than 10% in Seattle, landlords need only provide a 30-day notice, while if it’s above 10%, the notice period rises to 60 days. Westgren, noting that Tacoma provides 60 days across the board and other west coast counterparts like Portland and Vancouver offer 90 days, says this just isn’t enough time for a working person to find another affordable apartment.

Westgren recognizes that this proposal has a better chance of moving forward given the fact that state action is unnecessary.

(Image: Seattle City Council)

Multiple legislative proposals in Olympia this year looked to extend the rent increase notice period, but not to the six-month level being pushed by the commission. A bill requiring landlords give at least 60 days written notice to tenants prior to a rent increase, with exceptions, passed both the state House and Senate and is currently pending signature from the governor.

Another change that could come from the statehouse related to landlord-tenant relationships would be extending the pay-or-vacate notice period from three to 14 days under a measure led by state Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, whose original bill included a provision for also extending the rent increase notice period to 60 days, according to a legislative analysis.

State Rep. Nicole Macri, a Democrat from Seattle who represents Capitol Hill, may be interested in removing the rent control barrier, says Westgren. Macri, who works for the homelessness services nonprofit Downtown Emergency Service Center, told CHS Monday that she isn’t sure there is a path in the Legislature for lifting the statewide ban.

A bill to repeal the ban last year received a public hearing in the state House, but failed to make it out of committee.

Sean Martin, the executive director of the Rental Housing Association of Washington, responded to the commission’s push in a statement provided to CHS, saying that “a major driver of rental housing cost is a lack of units and space to build them.”

“Cities like San Francisco with restrictive zoning have seen rents skyrocket despite rent control,” Martin said. “Seattle recently updated some zoning rules to allow for more rental and other housing. We applaud those efforts and other comprehensive solutions that help make housing more affordable.”

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33 thoughts on “Sawant says she will make new push on Seattle rent control, ordinance against ‘Economic Evictions’” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

    • She’s certainly making the choice(s) a lot easier in the next election. One of my favorite sayings: “Nobody is so totally useless they can’t at least be used as a bad example”.

      • Just remember to vote. And not for this loud mouthed phony who would know that stuff on her shoes ISNT shinola.

        Maybe there will be a big shinola burger for her to eat, come election day (was that shine shinola? Not sure she can tell the difference)

  1. Every time the legal framework of owning rental units gets more difficult an independent owner sells their property to a real estate conglomerate. (using the recent example of that section 8 property where Madame Megaphone was recently spotted; one could easily understand that “landlord-tenant rules are not the same as protections”)

  2. At the next election cycle in Seattle, drain the Sawant! Sorry comrade, it’s time for you to take your self-aggrandizing ways and ride off into the sunset.

    • And when thy do, they will die a quick death in Olympia, because the entire rest of the State (and half of Seattle) doesn’t GAF abkut rent control. So it’ll be about as big a waste of time as something cooked up by Tim Eyman.

  3. I was wondering what she would come-up with this time. elections are coming and she has to appear to be doing something. she certainly doesn’t answer phone calls to her office, nor do her staff.

  4. Okay, im confused. In one statement sawant asserts that there are more tenants than available apartments. In another she asserts that one apartment in ten is vacant. So which is it?

    There has been no long term consideration given to the practical effects this will have on the very people it portends to protect. And none of them are good.

    Meanwhile, reading about this kind of endeavour prompts building owners to hurry up and raise their rents before their haseline is frozen. In other words, sawants efforts are directly contributing to the very thing she intends to combat.

    The key to solving housing affordability is density. More deman (units opening), in a constant demand environment will drive prices down (unless burdensome legislation drives construction costs up…because how do those get paid for?).

    But then, sawant used to be an economics teacher, so she should know that.

    • It is both. 10% of a certain class of apartment is vacant. Seattle should the attorney general if there is any credible reason to look at anti-trust and price-fixing violations.

      • By price fixing, do you mean owners set the rates of apartments in the buildings they own?

        Or is this your way of expressing that you are too poor, yet feeling entitled to live where you think you should live (regardless of what you can actually afford)?

        Rents havent skyrocketed in Seattle because nobody will pay them. If you cam no longer afforr to live in seattle, then perhaps you should seek additional skills and/or job training.

      • Are you insane?

        Rents arent high because owners consipired. Rents are high because people are willing to pay them.


        Heres an idea: buy a building. Then you can charge whar you want for rent. My hunch is that you will learn reality really fast.

      • I just reread this.

        10% of a certain class. So, no 1 in apartments does not sit vacant. Got it.

        10% of a certain class. Do you have any actual data to back that up? Which class is ‘a certain class’? Please educate us all, from your deep wealth of experience and knowledge.

      • There are way to many actors in the apartment market to credibly allege price fixing. It is a competitive market place. Are you âware of what your competitors charge and do you price accordingly. You bet. Just like informed renters are aware of who is offering incentives, for how long, and for how much, and rent accordingly. Isn’t it a beautiful thing?

      • 10% vacancy rate is still a significant number. The fact that a large number of players are involved does not mean there is or is not an anti-trust law being broken. Hence asking the state’s AG for an opinion. A large number of players are involved in the opioid crisis as well. The fact that the average rent in Seattle is going up, (I search this on every month or so) shows that the market is failing, even as more buildings go up. Supply and demand is an imperfect model.

  5. She came to an education funding rally at Seattle Central today and talked about her own agenda (brought her own flier even) totally ignoring the request to keep it to 2min and stay on topic. Even if you’re right, that’s so disrespectful and selfish.

  6. Too bad rent control is illegal in the state of WA. Just ask google. Or is this another stir-up-the-base program? Taking a page from our dear leader?

  7. I’m shocked! The Seattle renters commission which requires its members to be renters or renter advocates recommends rent control. Like asking Kelly Ann Conway to critique President Trumps job performance.

  8. What does the city’s landlord commission say about these suugested legislative remedies? Oh, that’s right. There is no city landlord commission.

    • And you obviously speak from a depth of experience and knowledge.

      News flash: the rents are what they are, because people will pay it. Its that simple.

      You are not entitled to live somewhere; and it is unreasonable for you to expect that you should somehow be special enough that the owner of a building should rent you the use of space for far less than someone else would pay in alternative.

      All landlords fixing the price of rents. Right. By renting apartments to people that will pay it.

      So yes you are insane. Explains your support of kshama. News flash: she is out. Youll see. Elections coming soon.

  9. The toxicity on these forums is so gross. Rental prices are forcing more and more people out of Seattle. And that is people that are middle class people that would like to live in Seattle. I’m lucky and have eeked out a home on Seattle. But I’m on the borderline of being able to “afford” Seattle. AND I make just barely 6 figures. So I know there are lots more people that are suffering that earn much less than I do because of minimum wages that are tough.
    What I’ll argue is that Seattle should be diverse in incomes and personalities. If we whitewash Seattle, all we’ll have is higher income white people in Seattle and we won’t have either economic or racial diversity. Right now everyone I know that lives in Seattle makes as much or more than I do. They are white and they are mostly male. There are outliers but mostly white males can make in Seattle if they work in tech. That’s not the Seattle I love. White males that work long hours do not bring culture to our city. It’s diversity that brings culture to Seattle but if we price everyone out, then Tacoma will be diverse and Seattle will just turn into Bellevue #2. If you want high prices and high concentration of wealth, move to Bellevue. In fact I’m happy Amazon is slowly exiting Seattle. Why, because real estate will go down. I’ve lived in a pre-Amazon Seattle and it was great and cheaper. I can live in a post Amazon Seattle and be happy without them and their high salaries pushing up the cost of living for everyone else.
    And I used to be a landlord. Yea, its nice to be able to collect more rents from your rental properties. But guess what, as a contributing member of society, you have a responsibility to humanity, something capitalism does not have room for. But you, the human being, is not the encompassment of capitalism. You are a human being that recognizes the importance of having a variety of people around you and recognizes others humanity.

    • We remove the garbage and actively monitor comments. It’s not going to be scrubbed clean but we’re always here to make it better. You can always help out by flagging issues here in comments or via email.

      • The toxicity he refers to is the ideas he doesn’t agree with. So, quash diversity of thought while espousing diversity within Seattle. Kind of a contradiction.

    • Of course, just as you suggest that people could/should just move to Bellevue, you could move to Tacoma. Funny thing is if you did move to Tacoma you would seen as “ruining the place” by many there… go figure.

      Although I would think Bellevue is not as economically diverse as Seattle it is more racially/ethnically diverse You should be so quick to slag the place.

      Quite a statement to say that white guys who work a lot do not contribute to culture. Really? Who is the arbiter “culture”?

      “This” may not be the Seattle you love, but “this” is the Seattle that many other people do love. Seattle is art and beauty… all in the eye of the beholder.

      Since you were a landlord, what are your thoughts on state imposed rent-control and the numerous other requirements placed on landlords in the past two years? As a landlord would it make you want to do more or less business in Seattle?

      I do appreciate your perspective on Seattle, but are these policies placed on rentals effective, simply window dressing, or possibly harmful in the longer term.

      Just as employers need employees, employees need employers. Just as landlords need renters, renters need landlords. It seems many have chosen to see theses relationships as a battlefield, which I believe will be harmful to all parties in the long term.

      • Its entitlement, pure and simple. Wrap it in whatver ‘humanistic’ wrapping you like, here is what it boils down to: feeling entitled.

        It is someone else’s burden to make sure that the purveyors of these notions can live where they feel like they deserve to live, totally oblivious to everything that contravenes that agenda.

        I really feel like i deserve to live at bill gates house, and fly around on his jet. Only problem? I cant cut the mustard.

      • Since you were a landlord, what are your thoughts on state imposed rent-control and the numerous other requirements placed on landlords in the past two years? As a landlord would it make you want to do more or less business in Seattle?

        I’ll answer that question. We took good care of our properties. We didn’t charge the highest we could have charged and we kept great tenants. We were not part of the problem. It is those landlords that are slapping up some paint (I call it shining a s*) and raising rents 1k. They are looking for pure profit and not doing the right thing to their tenants or the local economy. They certainly are able to raise rents. That’s why regulation comes in. When businesses/capitalism can’t regulate itself the gov steps in to regulate. In this case rent controls is regulation of the rental market. AND NO I was not seeking to make the most money I could I was seeking to provide good homes at a slight profit (or cut even) on fairly passive income (luckily we didn’t have lots of issues with the property).