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Seattle Council approves Sawant’s winter evictions ban — but includes exemption for ‘small’ landlords

Kshama Sawant’s legislation to ban winter evictions in Seattle was approved by the City Council Monday but not before a few holes were poked in the socialist council member’s attempt to restrict landlords from evicting tenants during winter months.

The 7-0 vote adds a new restriction to Seattle’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, a roster of “16 just causes” Seattle landlords are allowed to use to end month-by-month rental agreements. Seattle will now restrict evictions during the period from December 1st to March 1st. The rules could be in place for a short period if Mayor Jenny Durkan backs off veto threats.

Thanks to amendments passed by the council Monday, Durkan might be open to the new take on the legislation. First, the council trimmed the period covered from five months to three. It also voted to create a new fund to help tenants cover their payments and, hopefully, stave off eviction altogether. But most important for Durkan and many in the real estate industry who opposed the legislation, the council approved council member Alex Pedersen’s amendment that exempted “small” landlords from the restriction.

Under the amendment, small landlords would be defined as those owning fewer than four units. Sawant cited the difficulty in determining ownership of rental units because of the use of shell companies and limited liability corporations in her unsuccessful opposition to Pedersen’s addition to her bill.

The legislation will now go to Durkan’s desk where the mayor can sign it, stand by and let it become law, or choose to veto it and mount a messy fight with Sawant and housing advocates.

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23 thoughts on “Seattle Council approves Sawant’s winter evictions ban — but includes exemption for ‘small’ landlords

  1. Excellent. We have a shortage of rental units, so the brilliance of the City Council, put restrictions on landlords so that they are forced to raise rents, or sell their property, to cover the lost winter income. I’m not a residential landlord, so this doesn’t impact me. But this is another example of how well-meaning, yet ignorant politicians try to solve a problem, yet create another one. Yes, property taxes have doubled in the last four years. Those rental unit owners have to pay this increase, yet this law could eliminate three month’s income to pay it. And they say that the tenants will still be held accountable, and will have to eventually pay. Hmmm. So they don’t have the money to pay at the end of those three months, but they are suddenly going to have three months of back rent available in the Spring? Not likely. This law will actually hurt those tenants. It will hurt the landlords. And it will take some rental units off the market. Who does it help? It makes a handful of City Council members feel good about “doing something to help poor people.” But it actually does the opposite.

    • Ah, the law of unintended consequences. These “protections” appliy only to low and moderate income tenants. Higher income tenants get no protections. So, if I am buidling a building and want to avoid this issue i will choose to pay the low income hiousing fee rather than build lower income units on-site. So much for more affordable housing in the neighborhood.
      On my existing units I will raise income minimums and credit score requirements, which I am doing anyway in light of the first in time law, to avoid renting to moderate income people. I will also raise rents on my current below market tenants to rotate out those who may be subject to this new provision. It is all about managing risk.

      • It was already the case in the MHA (Mandatory Housing Affordability) “play vs. play” that the City made it cheaper to pay the fee than provide affordable housing at a much lower cost that a non-profit developer. This city is rotten to the core with faux social justice, envy, and delusion of a world that has never and will never exist.

      • Both comments are insightful and true. Can you blame the landlords for mitigating there risk, and moving their apartments upmarket. Literally, leaving low income families out in the cold.

        I know this sounds cynical, but there might be another agenda here. Here’s how it works; pass new regulations that reduces the number of affordable apartments in Seattle. Then Ms Sawant swoops-in to save the day with rent controls.

  2. The city needs to look no further than ever increasing utilities and property tax as to why rent keeps going up. All this will do is make mr landlord want better qualified renters.

    • Upping of income and credit requirements will be the natural reaction to winter eviction ban. Those it aims to help might find qualifying for a new apartment even more difficult.

  3. This law is doing exactly what it was meant to do. Drive out small operators. Jack up the lower rentals closer to market rate.

    This law helps the corporatization of housing in Seattle. The goal is to keep SFH for the very rich and force the middle class into rentals so people are vulnerable to price fixing and price gauging. Meanwhile Seattle politicians is bending over backward to find new ways to save developers money with more tax exemptions. And of course, no developer impact fees. Ever.

    The cultural PR is pushing the narrative that owning things are bad, racist and kill the environment. That’s why there is a huge mass media effort to push car, bike and scooter rentals instead of owning them. The urbanist dream is to build apodments where people can’t cook and have to eat out. It’s why city’s grocery stores are devoting so much space for prepared food and frozen food. If you have too much crap for that teensy closet, rent a storage locker. Drive around and you’ll see new storage buildings built on prime, expensive land. That’s deliberate building design to make sure people will need outside storage rental.

    It’s not a new concept. Company towns and fiefdom pave the way for Seattle’s and America’s new social order. In generations past, being wealthy means being a multimillionaire. But today’s new social order, the yardstick measures for billions and lies and quid pro quos are the rule of the land. Time to squeeze blood from turnips.

  4. While I am opposed to this legislation, for all the reasons clearly stated above, I am glad to see that Alex Pedersen’s amendment (to exempt small landlords) passed. I am glad Mr. Pedersen is on the Council….he is the only voice of moderation.

  5. I’m going to state a couple of opinions that might seem conflicting but I think they bear listing and wish politicians would think more about.

    1) We should try to help those at the lower end of the income bracket to keep their homes. This is social security; we have to have it. We can’t survive as a country without providing some support to the less fortunate.

    2) We shouldn’t penalize those property owners who have been fortunate enough to invest in rental properties. Especially those mom and pop landlords that may not necessarily want to evict someone in winter but that still need to pay their mortgages. Large, national property management services are going to more easily absorb a few tenants not paying for three months; especially by passing it along via increased rents that, I assume, many techie transplants to Seattle can easily pay.

    From what I’ve read, the city has solutions in place for lower income households that can help cover rents if the need arises. But it sounds like either people don’t know about these solutions (or how to get them) or are too prideful to take advantage. So, given the two statements above, why can’t the city use these solutions to work with landlords and say, “Okay, don’t evict someone from 12/01-2/28 but instead, apply to the city to get reimbursed for the rent.” The city then works out a re-payment plan whereby the tenant pays the city back. Landlords get paid and tenants keep their homes; all while using existing safety nets.

    I’m sure there’s a ton of bureaucratic red tape that would need to be worked through but wouldn’t this be an easier solution to the issue? The tenants don’t get evicted in winter (or any season for that matter) and landlords (maybe put limits like owners of six units or less) get their money. How is it that something like this can’t be instituted? Seems like the answer is that certain politicians just want their “wins” as soundbites for future political advancement and not really to help people at all. But maybe I’m missing something?

    • This is all part of a long term plan to de-commodify housing. That is, to remove or greatly reduce the profit motive from the housing market and replace it with increasing public ownership.
      Small steps like this undermine private property rights in favor of state control. Soon Sawant’s draconian rent control proposal, a version way more constrictive than anything adopted in CA or OR, will be before the Council. Private property rights again ceded to government control, And of course the Amazon tax, which seeks to secure hundreds of millions of dollars to build the publicly owned and controlled affordable housing of the future.
      So, yes, there are existing programs and methods to avoid winter evictions, but they don’t advance the ultimate goal of greatly diminishiing the role of capital accumulation (profit) in the housing market, so they are ignored.

  6. We need a city funded cash rental assistance program so the vampires get their blood, the government props up our disgusting capitalist hellscape and citizens are left holding the ball.

    • Oh yes, because I forgot the beautiful, flourishing, totally non-genocidal socialist and communist 20th century societies where definitively nobody starved to death, as an alternative to capitalism. Duh!

      “Democracy is the worst form of government, aside from all the others.” The same can be said for capitalism.

      • Humans wandering our streets, sleeping under off ramps, walking by my house screaming in pain and anguish at all hours aren’t doing so in a socialist hellscape.. they’re doing it in a capitalist democracy well beyond 100 years into industrialization.

      • Ghost of Capitol Hill – You’re do not have a monopoly on empathy for the hurting populations. What you do have a monopoly on is a clinging to a failed ideology that has quite literally never succeeded. Name a single successful socialist country, I’ll wait.

        What I am for, and I believe many Seattleites are for, are Federal programs to feed and house anyone in need with mental health staff as well as a single payer healthcare system. It’s for the betterment of our country. We would require strict drug and law compliance. Because right now, we have the worst of both worlds. That being said, things start at a family level and the US has seen a disintegration of the nuclear family unit, which is the single best predictor for a child’s success. Instead of blaming everything on the government, there needs to be some personal responsibility.

  7. You’ll notice that none of the people in favor of these kinds of proposals have actual numbers or rational arguments to back them up. They rely exclusively on emotional arguments, “save the poor”, “capitalism is evil” “rents are too damn high.” While these statements have some truth, as many comments have shown, the proposals don’t actually solve the problem, but make it much, much worse.
    My friend is selling 6 homes in Ballard because the costs have exceeded her income on those properties. She had run her rental business herself, so she was willing to take in the kinds of tenants that corporations would not do business with. Some of her tenants had been with her for more than 10 years. She said the buyers of her properties have already filed paperwork to raize the homes and build upscale, multi-family.

      • Please refer to my comment describing the agenda to decommodify the housing market above. All part of a long term plan to deconstruct capitalism.

      • Straight from the horses mouth, successful people are the problem. Yikes, such a sweeping generalization with no facts to back it up. Here’s a personal anecdote regarding this, a pair of brothers immigrated from the middle east as teenagers some 30+ years ago. They worked manual labor jobs, tirelessly, and saved money. They invested their savings in Seattle real estate quite wisely and made considerable profit. They continued to do so and are now quite well off. According to you they are the problem? People who came here with a dream and made a nice life for themselves and their families. That is the American dream and despite the envious neo-liberal losers like you who are mad people are more successful than you, there is a reason the United States takes more immigrants in modern history than any other country. It’s sad to see how much you hate this country, the success of others, and yourself.

      • What’s a successful capitalist society? Is it 0 poverty and 0 houseless? Is it 100% intact nuclear families? Is it class warfare and urban rural divide? Is it low unemployment? What it is a successful capitalist society? What is our goal with this capitalist society? This is not defined and that confusion is what leaves us to flounder.

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