Rep for landlords says Seattle needs to focus on ‘real solutions’ to fix housing crisis

Sep 28, 2021, 5:23 AM
segregation, homeless affordable housing, apartments, housing...
(File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

With eviction moratoriums being extended in Seattle and more housing bills approved by the city council, the Tom & Curley Show reached out to Brett Waller for details. Waller represents landlords and is the director of government affairs for the Washington Multifamily Housing Association.

How Seattle’s extended eviction moratorium may leave small landlords behind

Host John Curley asked Waller what recent bills he’s looking at or worried about from the city council.

“Where do I start?,” Waller replied. “The most recent bill that they passed was the school year eviction ban that applies to any individual who has a child in school, or a person who works for the school district or for a school — primary K-12 type school. That passed, and they just prevented evictions without any compensation, not providing any rental assistance or the opportunity to access rental assistance to really fix the problem that exists when you have a non payment of rent situation.”

Waller says with $2,000 in rental assistance, a tenancy can be whole and stable for over a year, on average.

“We just really need to focus on rental assistance,” he said. “… Just getting that $2,000 in cash, on average will keep a family stable for 95% of the time over a year period of time.”

That said, revenue can be an issue, Waller admits.

“I think we are a sympathetic villain, [that] may be the best term out there,” Waller said. “There’s a lot of focus on landlords and housing right now and that’s why the council has returned with two more bills that will be up on Monday about rent increases that make it just more challenging to operate rental housing in the city of Seattle.”

As for those two bills, one requires at least six months notice for a rent increase. The second requires the landlord to pay relocation assistance to the tenants if the rent is increased by more than 10% and the tenant moves out. Both were passed by the Seattle City Council on Monday.

“The city is requiring the landlord to pay that money,” Waller said about the second bill. “So it’s really a tax or a fee on the landlord to operate their business and to cover their operating expenses.”

Waller pointed out that on average, 10 cents of every dollar paid in rent goes to the pocket of the landlord, while 90 cents of every dollar goes toward the operating costs of the property.

“When you look at a property, you have to estimate what the taxes are going to be for next year,” he said. “There’s an incredible shortage of labor right now in the rental property market. And so wages are very competitive and that’s making it very difficult for affordable housing providers particularly to keep up with the market conditions with the inability to raise rent, and the challenges around raising rent in affordable communities to maintain the competitiveness of employee wages, and also the maintenance of communities.”

Down the road, landlords will continue to look for ways to mitigate their risk.

“They look at their screening criteria, they sell their property to get out of the market, and that becomes a homeowner type of a property, and they just do other things,” Waller said. “Everything that the city council has done, arguably, has not stabilized the housing market in the city of Seattle, it’s only made it worse.”

“So what we need to do is really focus on real solutions to fix Seattle’s housing crisis,” he added.

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Rep for landlords says Seattle needs to focus on ‘real solutions’ to fix housing crisis