How Oregon’s approach to rent control could be a blueprint for Seattle

Aug 6, 2019, 9:32 AM | Updated: 10:41 am
Sawant rent control...
Councilmember Kshama Sawant continues her push for rent control. (City of Seattle)
(City of Seattle)

The debate surrounding rent control in Seattle is one that often comes up when talking about the city’s high cost of living. It’s become one of the leading issues for Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and with Oregon recently passing rent control regulations of its own, many wonder what it would even look like in Washington state.

Sawant renews push for rent control in Seattle

For now, Seattle’s hands are tied by a statewide ban on rent control. But don’t be surprised to see the Legislature at least take a long hard look at it when the next session kicks off.

“I would be astounded if it doesn’t come back up again the next time the House and the Senate meet,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner told KIRO Radio’s Jim Dever.

Oregon’s own legislation could very well be used as a blueprint, too. Our southern neighbor’s measure is less a stringent rent control restriction, and more an “anti-gouging” limitation.

Rent control in its strictest form places a government-enforced limit on a pair of factors: The amount of money a landlord can charge for rent, and the amount they can charge for lease renewals. Oregon chose to focus solely on the latter, making it so landlords can’t raise rents by more than 7 percent per year plus inflation.

Gardner labels it a largely unprecedented approach that causes far fewer issues.

“It’s a something which we really haven’t seen before,” he noted. “If we look at it in … terms of a cap-to-rental-rate increase … some developers will say ‘you know perhaps it’s not for me,’ but in general it won’t be much of a problem.”

It’s with stricter measures where cities have historically run into a myriad of problems.

State lawmakers pass bill preventing mid-lease rent hikes

“If you implement real rent control, that would be massively problematic. It’s never worked — it’s failed for quite frankly the last 50 years,” said Gardner.

New York City was the first the use rent control in 1940 as a means to keeping housing costs in check. All it ultimately accomplished, though, was a downturn in new development, and building owners deferring renovations and maintenance.

That hit both landlords and renters alike, a problem Oregon’s own measure looked to solve.

“If you’re just looking (for) an anti-gouging situation, then that can be more palatable, and certainly more palatable for the renter,” Gardner described.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

MyNorthwest Staff

New study details ‘startling’ effect large tsunami would have on Western Washington

A new study from the Department of Natural Resources details the devastating effect a large tsunami would have on the state's coastal areas.
3 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Beat the vote suppressors at their own game

Democrats have promised to keep fighting for voting rights, and that includes Rep. Derek Kilmer. So, I tried to sell him my idea of radical compliance.
3 days ago
Bremerton coach...
MyNorthwest Staff

McKenna: ‘Real chance’ Bremerton coach could prevail in SCOTUS case over praying at games

Could former Bremerton High School football Coach Joe Kennedy finally score a legal victory in front of the Supreme Court?
4 days ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Washington Rep. Kilmer says voting rules must pass the ‘grandma’ test

Congressman Derek Kilmer believes certain voting rights need to be enshrined nationwide, and it has to do with his grandma
4 days ago
Stevens Pass, snow...
Dave Ross

Ross: The snow is gone, but the storm continues

One of the essential functions of snow storms in Washington state is to give us one more reason to get angry at the government.
4 days ago
voting rights...
Dave Ross

Ross: It’s time to start working on a plan B to protect voting rights

Everyone who is passionate about protecting voting rights, start working on plan B now. Use that anger to show voters how to comply with repressive laws.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
How Oregon’s approach to rent control could be a blueprint for Seattle