Globalist asks the Candidates: Rent control in Seattle?

Seattle residents have been affected by rising rents. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)
Seattle residents have been affected by rising rents. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)

The Seattle Globalist asked the Seattle City Council candidates five questions important to immigrant and minority communities in Seattle. This question on rent control is the first of the series of five.

Question: If the state allowed cities to take action on rent control, as the city of Seattle asked for in its recent resolution, what steps, if any, should the city take on controlling rents in Seattle?


District 1

Shannon Braddock

Shannon_braddock
Shannon Braddock

The resolution is asking the State to provide local control to Seattle and other municipalities to address ways to stabilize rent and I support that effort. There are many possible options if the State gives Seattle local authority. I would explore further mandatory inclusionary zoning and potentially limiting the amount rents can be raised rather than capping them. This is an important policy issue and in the meantime Seattle should continue work to address affordable housing issues based on the recommendations of the HALA committee.

Lisa Herbold

Lisa Herbold
Lisa Herbold

I feel that they City must have the local control to answer this question. There are dozens of different ways to regulate rents. I don’t claim to know what will be a good solution for Seattle, but I believe we must have the authority to craft a Seattle solution. I think we need to act immediately to begin to draft some principles of policy to assist our Seattle delegation in Olympia to move forward legislation removing the ban against all rent regulations. I’ve written about this topic here and here.

 


District 2

Bruce Harrell

Bruce Harrell
Bruce Harrell

Yes, if the data and research determine that regulating or controlling rents produces the desired result of affordability for those being displaced in Seattle. We must closely examine where and why rent control has failed in other cities and where and how it has succeeded in producing affordable housing for low income residents.

Rent control is not the end, but the potential means to produce affordable housing. To address housing affordability, I want to use every available tool to create more housing stock for low income residents. I want to increase the supply of rent units, protect tenants from sudden and large rent increases. Seattle tops the list of the fastest-growing big cities, ranking number one a few years ago and fifth recently by Forbes.

With rents rising, it is becoming increasingly unaffordable for health care workers, retail service jobs, child care providers, and hospitality workers and lower wage earners, many of whom are people of color or immigrants and refugees or fixed income residents. We need to make sure households earning 30 percent area median income ($26,000) and 30 to 50 percent AMI ($44,800) have the opportunity to live and work in this city.

Tammy Morales

Tammy Morales
Tammy Morales

I am an outspoken advocate of the efforts to push the State to permit Seattle to control rents in the city. For both people and business, I support limiting rent increases to within reasonable amounts that do not equate to economic eviction. Landlords need to generate enough revenue to cover operating and maintenance costs and earn some income, but the city should adopt strong renter protections to prohibit doubling or tripling rent.

 

 


District 3

Kshama Sawant

Kshama Sawant
Kshama Sawant

Seattle is facing a severe affordable housing crisis. Working-class people and people of color are being gentrified out of the city. I am proud to have helped lead the fight on rent regulation.

Seattle needs rent control. We cannot allow the kind of price gouging taking place across our city, including 100 percent rent increases and higher.

Along with former Tenants’ Union Director Jonathan Grant, I am the City Councilmember or candidate that does not accept campaign donations from corporations or developers. This enables me to fight unambiguously for the needs of workers, renters, and people of color without feeling pressure to cater to the demands of the corporate elite. My opponent does not support rent control, and not surprisingly her campaign is backed to the hilt by CEOs and real estate developers, including slumlords like Carl Haglund and speculators like John Goodman. The latter’s $2.5 billion Goodman Real Estate company is known for predatory practices and widespread tenant evictions.

Pamela Banks did not submit an answer.


District 4

Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson

Rent control is one of the potential tools in our toolbox, but only if we have the authority to enact it, which we currently do not. In some cities, when used too broadly, rent control ultimately exacerbates housing affordability crises. If the legislature were to give Seattle that authority (a very big long shot) then I would support some proven forms of rent stabilization among a myriad of tools to keep housing affordable. I think that looking for a single solution to keep working families living in our city is a mistake and we have to provide housing options that work for families and individuals at multiple income levels.

Our biggest problem with housing and gentrification is the lack of available market-rate housing. As neighborhoods like Ballard and Capitol Hill significantly increase the amount of market-rate housing, I’m curious to see the long term effects on rents in older buildings and the renter retention rates in these neighborhoods. However, allowing persistent and unpredictable increases in rent is not only morally wrong, but also a detriment to our economy and culture.

Michael Maddux

michael_maddux
Michael Maddux

First, the city should enact policies that do not allow rents to increase in the event of code violations. The Columbia City Condo building situation is atrocious, and were rents capped until the improvements could be made, tenants would not be facing economic eviction. I also support a “one-stop shop” for credit check fees, along with reasonable caps on move-in costs, with an option to pay deposits over a period of 3 to 6 months, depending on the deposit size and length of lease. Requiring greater notice of rent increases (60 days instead of 20), and implementation of the “economic eviction” law will also be very helpful.

Councilmember Burgess has stated that limits of 25 to 50 percent year-over-year increases is something he might support. Before getting into specifics, I believe we need to have a detailed conversation with experts and small landlords, learning what inflation for maintaining rental housing is, what the profit margin typically looks like, and ensure that any stabilization measures allow for a process to exceed caps in the event of a major, needed investment such as a roof replacement – similar to a condo assessment. If rent control in New York and San Francisco isn’t working, then we shouldn’t copy those models. Instead, we should come up with something that might work, while continuing to identify how we can allow for significant increase in housing stock — both privately owned and publicly owned — to meet the need for all income levels.


District 5

Sandy Brown

Sandy Brown
Sandy Brown

I believe the City of Seattle needs to work harder to protect renters in this city. The recent news story in Columbia City highlights the situation many renters are in: the quality of rented homes is deteriorating and the amount of their rent is skyrocketing. We need to be sure that both that housing stock is adequately maintained and that the rents don’t rise so sharply. One of the reasons we’re seeing this problem is because housing has become so hard to find here and the lack of supply makes it a “sellers’ market.” We must also put limits on the amount of increases allowed by the owners of rental units through rent stabilization programs.

I would suggest that owners are permitted to raise rents by no more than CPI increases per year, unless they are making upgrades and have obtained written permission from the tenants. We should also strengthen our Tenant’s Union and focus on greater outreach to ensure that all renters in Seattle know their rights and are able to exercise them. Lastly, we should be more vigilant in requirements for the provision of affordable housing when developers want to put in high rises. Studies show numerous benefits to having these affordable units more integrated within affluent neighborhoods.

Debora Juarez

Debora Juarez
Debora Juarez

I strongly support the city’s recent action to petition the state legislature to lift the ban on rent control. If the ban got reversed, we would then need to have a conversation as an entire city over what the Seattle approach to rent control would be. At the very least, I would certainly support measures that prohibit landlords with code violations from raising their rents and also prevent extreme rent increases.

 

 


District 6

Mike O’Brien

Mike O'Brien
Mike O’Brien

I strongly we believe we need tools to help stabilize rents. If the state were to lift a prohibition on rent control (and perhaps even if they don’t) I would work with national experts and local leaders on the topic to better understand how we could create a system that stabilizes renters in their housing with as few unintended consequences as possible. I believe that in Seattle we can design a system that doesn’t undermine the ability of investors to make reasonable returns on their investments and gives renters secure and stable housing prices. I don’t yet have specifics on that program.

Catherine Weatbrook

Catherine Weatbrook
Catherine Weatbrook

Rent control as it is practiced in San Francisco and New York doesn’t work for most renters, and actually hurts the affordability of the market as a whole. I will work to prevent the economic evictions using successive rent increases we’re seeing, enforcing the laws we have, and closing loopholes in the regulations we have. We also need to look closely at the impacts of Airbnb on our rental inventory.

 

 


District 7

Sally Bagshaw

Sally Bagshaw
Sally Bagshaw

I support rent stabilization as we are advocating in the 21st century, not rent control as defined in the last century. Our best opportunity to provide the 50,000-plus new units that are needed is through the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda recommendations.

I commit to the following as starting points:

  • Promote the building of additional housing supply including Apodments, congregate living, SRO’s cottage housing,
  • Subsidize rents through our Housing Levy for families making less than 60 percent AMI,
  • Add residential requirements for inclusionary zoning,
  • Require linkage fees for commercial buildings to be applied to residential low income housing,
  • Provide incentives for infill along light rail and express bus corridors
  • Preserve as many units as possible.

Deborah Zech Artis

Deborah Zech Artis
Deborah Zech Artis

I do not support rent control as designed in San Francisco and New York.

I want to further investigate the renter protection processes and procedures that Philadelphia has in place. If we do some form of rent increase restrictions I would want a panel of landlords involved. I think that the major property management companies need to be monitored and subject to more review. I believe the current landlord / tenant laws need to be reviewed and modified as required.

 


Position 8

Tim Burgess

Tim Burgess
Tim Burgess

We do intend to ask the state legislature to give local government the ability to craft local solutions to local problems related to rents. I favor the city’s ability to block any rent increases if a building has outstanding and unresolved violations of housing or life safety codes. I also favor some form of exorbitant rent increase cap so we don’t continue to see immediate increases of such huge proportions as we have seen recently. As the new legislative sessions approaches, I will work with community organizations and advocacy groups to determine the best approach to these issues.

Jon Grant did not submit an answer.

 


Position 9

Lorena Gonzales

Lorena Gonzales
Lorena Gonzales

If allowed, the city should take strong and immediate steps to mitigate rising rents through a variety of regulations. This includes limiting the percentage by which the rent may be raised in a period of 12 months, limiting the months in the year a landlord can raise rents (for example, rent can only be raised January through April) and legislating a mandatory 60- or 90-day notification period before a landlord can raise rent. We can also take a look at regulating “move in” costs and outlawing preferred employer incentives. If the city were allowed to regulate the rental market, these tools would be available to provide renters with immediate relief to the increasing cost of housing in our city.

Bill Bradburd did not submit an answer.


Read more Globalist questions for the Seattle City Council candidates and don’t forget to vote! Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was first published to add Debora Juarez’ answer.

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