Ross: Rent control was never the answer in Wash.

Feb 27, 2024, 6:07 AM | Updated: 1:14 pm

rent control...

Former Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant campaigns for rent control legislation in Seattle in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Seattle City Council Blog)

(Photo courtesy of Seattle City Council Blog)

Can we finally bury rent control in WA?

The rent control bill died in the legislature this week, even though Democrats control both houses. The reason is because Democrats — like Senator Mark Mullet of Issaquah — realized landlords would just get out of the rental business, and it would backfire.

“If you want to lower the price … isn’t going to help,” Mullet told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH 770 AM. “I think rent control has been looked at from an academic standpoint for several decades and we don’t have any examples of it being successful.”

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The problem gets worse when you have idealists who say they want to lower rents, but are also determined to discourage development because it leads to climate change.

So how about this: Make it easier to build stuff! Especially in areas that are already developed. If you look at the permit requirements for multi-family developments in King County – just the information bulletin is 15 pages.

To build one single-family home, you’re looking at five weeks just to screen the application and another 30 weeks to get the necessary permits. For larger buildings, I couldn’t find any time estimates. And when you look at the list of permits, you understand why.

Got a pencil ready?

  • The International Building Code
  • International Mechanical Code
  • International Fire Code
  • Critical Areas Code
  • Drainage Ordinance
  • Shoreline Management Act
  • Washington State Energy Code
  • Certificate of Transportation Concurrency
  • Certificate of Sewer and Water Availability

And of course, your payments for all these things.

No one wants shoddy construction or dead fish, so there must be rules. But the rules need to make sense and should not be used to block development.

I do have a little experience here as part of group of neighbors trying to get permission to protect our property from landslides. It’ll end up taking a year just to get permission. And we’re not even building anything new, just trying to protect what’s there.

The way to end a housing crisis it not to change the rules on rent, but to change the attitude of the gatekeepers. An investor who wants to build a five-story apartment building should be welcomed at the permit office with cake and ice cream. The attitude should be “thank goodness you’re here. How do we make this happen as quickly as possible?”

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Instead of “why are you trying to kill the fish and destroy the earth?”

If we’re going to rope off huge areas of land to keep them in their natural state – which I think is a good thing – then it has to be easier to fill in what’s left.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Rent control was never the answer in Wash.