Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant has held a special city council committee meeting to formally present her draft plan and ordinance for rent control in Seattle.
Sawant formally unveiled her proposed ordinance, which states, “Seattle faces an affordable housing and homelessness crisis as rising rents have forced thousands of Seattle renters out of their homes, neighborhoods and the city.
“Between 2010 and 2018, average rents in Seattle rose 69 percent while inflation for urban wage earners in Seattle rose only 20.3 percent,” the ordinance states.
The proposed ordinance says the “maximum annual rent increase shall be a percentage equal to the rate of inflation,” for urban wage earners, which was 3.4% last year in the greater Seattle area, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and according to published reports.
Sawant’s draft legislation follows her six-year-old call for rent control, a 2015 City Council resolution supporting the repeal of a State-wide rent control ban, plus an April letter from the Seattle’s Renters’ Commission urging the council and Mayor Jenny Durkan to pass a rent control ordinance in Seattle, according to reports.
Washington state law prohibits rent control
Washington state law currently prohibits rent control.
Sawant said her legislation, if passed, wouldn’t take effect until that ban is repealed. The full city council likely won’t take up the matter until December, after budget negotiations have ended.
The Rental Housing Association of Washington has suggested setting up a community fund to offer rental assistance for people in need.
The association says that rent controls discourage new housing construction during periods of shortage by distorting the market signals needed to maintain equilibrium in the market place.
Sawant told the Capitol Hill Seattle blog that she was prepared for a hard fight over rent control. “It’s going to be hard, it’s not going to be easy,” she said. She expects “some vicious opposition. We have to prepare ourselves for that.”
Sawant pointed to supporters of rent control, especially small landlords, who she says are supporters “because they don’t gouge their renters,” according to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.