Harrell vetoes bill to require landlords to report rents

Jun 10, 2022, 4:15 PM

Photo by John Moore...

Photo by John Moore

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell vetoed a recently passed city council bill that would have required landlords to report key details of their property such as rents and square footage.

The bill sponsored by Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Alex Pedersen was passed to better collect data about the local real estate market in an effort to meet the ‘city’s racial equity goals.’

Council Bill 120325 would have required landlords to submit proprietary information about their units to a research university, and Pedersen says that this information would have been essential to ‘better-informed policymaking about affordable housing.’

“I am deeply disappointed our solution to collect housing data helpful for preventing displacement of economically vulnerable people was not signed into law,” Pedersen said in a statement. “Similar laws to collect rental housing data are already in place throughout the nation, so the veto means Seattle is still behind the times.”

‘We’re so far behind on this’: Seattle council looks to catch up on affordable housing data

The closest institution taking on this job was a city-contracted housing data collection firm, Dupre and Scott Apartment Advisors, but they shut their doors in 2017, and with their closure, there is no longer a database to locate the city’s below-market rental properties.

Harrell explained his reasoning for the veto in a letter to the city clerk’s office focusing on the cost of instituting the program as well as his worries that, if instituted, the bill would not influence the city in time to meet its 2024 goals for racial equity in the One Seattle Plan.

“The likely financial costs associated with designing a mandatory reporting system are too high,” Harrell said. “City department staff estimated that the costs to stand up a new system and provide staffing support could be at least $2 million and as much as $5 million – money that could otherwise directly serve people suffering in the ongoing homelessness crisis. While I do not agree with this legislation’s approach, I agree on the stated goal: we need reliable data … I am calling on private industry to establish a replacement to the now-shuttered Dupre and Scott Apartment [Advisors].”

James Young, Director of the University of Washington’s Washington Center for Real Estate Research (WCRER), outlined several reasons the legislation presents problems and is cited by Harrell as one of the reasons he vetoed the new law.

“However, my concern is that the legislation as drafted will not yield the level of quality of data the City requires,” Young said in his letter to the city council on May 5. “This is because the legislation lacks two key data collection elements crucial to success; The program needs to be voluntary. A mandatory program presents a high risk that incomplete or inaccurate data will be provided. And the entity collecting the data matters. Owners are concerned about disclosure of commercially sensitive business information that could adversely affect their businesses.”

Councilmembers have 30 days to vote on whether or not to override the mayor’s veto, requiring at least six votes to override the veto.

Pedersen and Morales expressed their disappointment upon hearing the news of the veto.

“Rejecting this law seems to be a victory for landlords unwilling to share data and a loss for those seeking data to make informed decisions on preserving and expanding affordable housing in our city,” Pedersen said in a statement.

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