Seattle council upholds eviction moratorium expiration set for Feb. 28

Feb 22, 2022, 6:34 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2022, 9:16 am
eviction moratorium...
Councilmember Kshama Sawant (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Seattle City Council has rejected a proposed extension to Seattle’s eviction moratorium, currently set to expire Feb. 28. The rejection carried on a three to five vote, with Councilmembers Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda, and Lisa Herbold as the three approval votes.

Mayor Harrell to end Seattle eviction moratorium Feb. 28

While the legislation considered Tuesday was a resolution, and therefore did not have the same legal significance as an ordinance, it would have effectively removed the end date from the emergency order that carries the moratorium. If it had passed, the moratorium would have extended through the COVID civil emergency, not simply to the end of the month as previously established by the mayor.

In a last-minute push to bring a more moderate proposal to the table, Councilmember Lisa Herbold proposed an amendment to the resolution that would have established a later sunset date to the moratorium: April 30. Herbold said in council sessions Tuesday that the attempt was largely to avoid maintaining the moratorium in perpetuity as Sawant’s proposal tied the moratorium to the indefinite COVID public health emergency.

That vote failed on a 3-5 margin as well, although it was rejected by Sawant and approved by Councilmember Dan Strauss.

Sawant, the original resolution’s sponsor, brought the legislation forward late last week. She argues that the end of the moratorium would trigger a wave of evictions, exacerbating Seattle’s homelessness problem as the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 19% of adults in the Seattle metropolitan area (spanning Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue) have either missed a recent rent or mortgage payment, or have low confidence in their ability to make rent next month.

In her Tuesday remarks, Sawant commented on Mayor Bruce Harrell’s announcement that $25 million would be allocated in rental assistance to mitigate the effect of the moratorium’s end.

“When this eviction moratorium is about to expire, that’s when new applications [for rental assistance] are also not going to be accepted,” Sawant said Tuesday. “So when Mayor Harrell says that he has identified $25 million, what it actually means is that there is only $25 million left, not that there is an additional $25 million being added.”

Summarizing the rationale for the votes of rejection, Council President Debora Juarez stressed the temporary nature of the eviction moratorium as drafted.

“We were one of the first in the country to understand the gravity of the economic recession, especially for low-income renters,” Juarez said Tuesday.

“Just 13 days after Mayor Durkan passed the proclamation of civil emergency, she issued an emergency order placing a temporary moratorium on residential evictions. But the keyword is temporary. We knew this moratorium would not last forever. We cannot have a healthy economy when nobody pays rent.”

The eviction moratorium dates back two years, to the early days of the pandemic in 2020. Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan extended the moratorium roughly a half dozen times over the course of her administration. Mayor Harrell announced earlier in February that he would allow it to expire at the end of the month.

Just shy of 100 people signed up for public testimony before the Tuesday vote. Speakers ranged from small landlords to commercial tenants. Comments spanned personal anecdotes of COVID-related hardships, to the mention of other forms of rental aid available, beyond the moratorium, provided under the mayor’s public health emergency order.

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Seattle council upholds eviction moratorium expiration set for Feb. 28