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Rent control Kshama Sawant, ban eviction
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Seattle eviction ban bill prompts Senate bill to ban eviction bans

Rent control advocates at a rally headed by Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (Kshama Sawant)

As Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s bill to ban evictions during the colder months in the City of Seattle gets closer to becoming law, a rival bill in Olympia, Senate Bill 6651, sponsored by gubernatorial candidate and Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn), would ban such eviction bans statewide.

Roger Valdez of housing advocacy group Seattle for Growth called the Seattle City Council bill — which would ban evictions from November through March except in certain circumstances, such as tenant crimes — a dangerous piece of legislation for landlords and responsible renters alike.

“On the face of it, it sounds like the compassionate thing to do — it’s cold outside, someone is about to get evicted. The problem is … it encourages people not to pay their rent, it’s unfair to tenants who work hard to get their rent in on time,” Valdez said. “And even worse than that, in the bigger picture, it exposes a lot of folks to increased risk.”

Valdez told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the Washington State Treasurer’s Office is worried that subsidized housing could be facing greater financial risks; he compared it to allowing a toddler in a playpen to use a butcher knife as a toy.

Dori: Sawant’s ‘no eviction’ bill means you shouldn’t pay rent anymore

“This is a risky thing that is going to impact the entire housing market,” he said.

It’s incredibly unfair, he said, that some people scrimp and save to pay their rent on time, while others — if Sawant’s bill goes into effect — would be able to skate by without paying for half the year.

“The people we don’t hear from are the people who bust their [rear ends] to get their rent check in by 5 o’clock on the first of the month,” he said. “And if they see somebody down the hallway who just doesn’t pay their rent and gets to live there, what message does that send to hardworking people?”

Fewer than 600 people got evicted in Seattle in 2017, and, as Valdez pointed out, they were not all getting evicted to homelessness — some went to less expensive rental options or to loved ones who could help. He added that nonprofits like the United Way help people getting evicted so that they do not end up on the streets.

Seattle For Growth hopes that the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability Committee will give the bill a hearing. Valdez said that the group has more faith that the Senate bill will do well than that the Seattle City Council will vote down the eviction ban; he encourages everyone to contact their senator and advocate for SB 6651.

“We’re hoping that we can prevail upon at least somebody who isn’t going to be dealing with an election in Seattle to stop this,” he said.

Ultimately, Valdez said, the bill will hurt the very people the bill is trying to help — those living on low incomes — by forcing landlords to raise the price and requirements for renting a property because of the greater risks they now have to take on.

“This is Seattle, so the whole equation of what’s irresponsible and what’s compassionate is completely reversed,” Valdez said, adding, “What it’s going to result in is more pain for consumers who have less money.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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