Multiple rent stabilization bills aim to control extreme increases

Jan 27, 2023, 2:24 PM

landlords rent downtown...

Apartment complexes in downtown Seattle (Nicola via Flickr Creative Commons)

(Nicola via Flickr Creative Commons)

Two proposals are on the floor of the state Legislature that looks to impose some limits on ever-increasing rent prices, which some lawmakers say are contributing to rising homelessness rates.

The proposals, HB 1389 and SB 5435, impose caps on rent increases, preventing landlords in the state from raising rent more than the rate of inflation in most cases.

Study: Renters need to work longer hours to afford rent

The landlord may not increase rent more than the rate of inflation as measured by the consumer price index of 3%, whichever is greater, up to a maximum of 7% above the existing rent. There are exceptions for buildings less than 10 years old, public housing, improvements beyond maintenance, and a hardship exemption.

In a 2020 study, researchers at the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that for every $100 in rent increase leads to a 9% hike in homelessness, which becomes even worse when racial disparities are factored in.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Alex Ramel (D-40th District), explained why he thought that this kind of legislation was so important, telling the story of a constituent struggling to live in the community.

“I’m confident that you heard from folks who are experiencing double-digit rent increases year over year and what that’s doing to their lives. For myself, I made the decision to introduce legislation like this while standing on the doorstep of a young man in Bellingham,” Ramel said. “He’s a recent graduate from Western Washington University and just got a new job. And he was leaving our community. He was packing to go, and I knocked on his door because his landlord had just notified him that his rent was going to go up by $600 a month.”

Rental Housing Association of Washington opposes the legislation saying that the policy won’t actually solve rental prices and will instead punish small landlords and allow wealthy renters easy access to cheap housing.

“The rent control policy has failed everywhere it has been enacted in this county. It has not fixed one housing problem anywhere. It also does not distinguish between rich and poor when determining who gets the benefits of rent control,” said Chester Baldwin with the Rental Housing Coalition.


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Multiple rent stabilization bills aim to control extreme increases