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Kshama Sawant reintroduces proposal to bring rent control to Seattle

May 6, 2021, 7:31 AM
Rent control Kshama Sawant, ban eviction...
Rent control advocates at a rally headed by Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (Kshama Sawant)
(Kshama Sawant)

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant has now introduced an updated version of a rent control proposal she first unveiled in 2019.

Local leaders from Seattle to Spokane eye rent control

In 2019, Sawant’s proposed bill would have capped annual rent increases for all housing types, and restricted landlords from raising rent immediately after tenants move out. That measure ultimately didn’t get far, but after a right to counsel bill for tenants facing eviction was passed in March, Sawant said at the time that she was “emboldened” by the legislative win.

Her updated rent control bill contains the same major pieces as her 2019 proposal, mandating that rent increases align with local inflation rates, requiring landlords to lump utility costs in with rent, enacting “one-to-one replacement” rules for rental units and prices should a building be torn down and rebuilt, and establishing a “Rent Control Board” to manage the city’s rent control policies moving forward.

Sawant cited the ongoing pandemic as a driving factor behind renewing her push for rent control, stating that “dramatic steps are needed to fight the growing crisis of economic displacement and gentrification, which is being fueled entirely by profiteering corporate landlords.”

King County judge upholds series of Seattle eviction protections

“The moment is urgent, with tens of thousands of Seattle households struggling for economic survival,” she said in a written release.

Rent control has been illegal statewide since 1981, with opponents citing it as a factor in reducing housing supply, and driving up costs in the wake of fewer options for prospective renters. Sawant’s bill in 2019 — and her updated version announced this week — both contain a stipulation stating that it would take effect retroactively in the event the Legislature voted to lift Washington’s statewide rent control ban.

In an FAQ posted to her council website, Sawant notes that there “is no legal obstacle to the Seattle City Council enacting commercial rent control right now,” pointing out that the state’s ban applies solely to residential properties.

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Kshama Sawant reintroduces proposal to bring rent control to Seattle