MYNORTHWEST POLITICS

Rent stabilization bill fails to advance in Washington legislature

Feb 26, 2024, 3:19 PM | Updated: 5:15 pm

Rent...

Rent stabilization is not an issue the state Legislature will take on this session. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The rent stabilization bill, which aimed to limit yearly residential rent increases to 7%, has reached an impasse in the Washington State Legislature. The bill will not move forward this year.

Washington Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair June Robinson, D-Everett, announced that the committee would not take action on HB 2114, effectively ending legislative efforts for now. Despite Democrats controlling both the House and Senate, insufficient support prevented the bill from advancing out of committee. (A PDF of the engrossed substitute bill can viewed here.)

“There was no Republican support and not enough Democratic support to get the bill out of committee,” Robinson said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work we have done to make housing more affordable across Washington, but we fell short in this instance and will continue to work on the issue next year.”

However, Robinson’s Democratic colleagues in the House expressed dissatisfaction with the Senate’s failure to move the measure forward.

Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, a co-sponsor of the bill, expressed disappointment. She highlighted the urgent need to address rising rents statewide, referring to it as an “emergency.”

Sen. Mark Mullett, D-Issaquah, the vice-chair of the committee, had been working behind the scenes to prevent the bill from becoming a reality and was openly opposed to the bill.

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“I’ve always felt this concept is fundamentally flawed,” Mullett said to Jason Rantz of AM 770 KTTH after the committee meeting, explaining his opposition to the bill.

“If you want to lower the price of something, you need to have more of it, and any bills you pass that lead to less of that commodity being produced isn’t going to help,” he added.

He said the state is building roughly 45,000 units per year of new residential housing a year with a goal of 55,000 units.

He claims if HB 2114 had passed, that number would have dropped to 35,000 per year, with developers looking to other states to spend their money.

“When you pass rent control bills, you’re sending all that private capital we are trying to attract, you’re sending all that money to other states,” Mullett said.

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He also said passing the bill would have led to less sales tax revenue to help people needing housing.

“I explained to my colleagues that we are a sales tax state, so when you lose sales tax on construction of homes, those are your big-ticket items” he said.

He said less sales tax collected equals a smaller operating budget and less help for people who need social services to survive.

The Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance is urging Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, to disregard the committee’s inaction and revive the bill, bringing it directly to the Senate floor for a vote.

“Senate leadership has the authority and 10 more days to take action,” said Michele Thomas, advocacy and policy director for the alliance.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Rent stabilization bill fails to advance in Washington legislature