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Washington lawmakers consider abolishing rent control law

(Unsplash/Brandon Griggs)

Lawmakers in Olympia are debating whether or not to strike down existing laws and allow local rent control as the region’s housing crisis continues to grow.

“I think local communities are best situated to bring together the appropriate stakeholders to figure out the right policies for their local communities,” said Representative Nicole Macri. “That is why I think it is time to repeal the preemption on locally-imposed rent regulations.”

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Macri is among a range of Democratic sponsors of House Bill 2583. A House judicial committee heard arguments Tuesday for, and against, the bill which aims to abolish Washington’s law banning cities and counties from imposing rent control.

The committee heard from two panels weighing in on the issue. On one side were people representing landlords and developers. On the other side were renters advocates and people suffering under massive rent increases. Among them was Mia Franklin of Federal Way who explained that she was recently forced to move in with her disabled daughter after her landlord raised her rent by $200 overnight.

“When a landlord raises your rent, it does not mean that your job, or your social security, or DSHS … automatically increases to cover that added expense,” she said. “Back in the day, your rent may have increased $25-50 a year giving families an opportunity to make adjustments in their budgets. But how do you adjust $200-400 a month with a 30-day notice? It’s not realistic and it sure as hell does not feel like the American Dream. It feels like an American nightmare. Rent is high and for most, wages are low. Are we the people supposed to continue to live in fear, paycheck-to-paycheck wondering when homelessness will knock on our door?”

Arguing HB 2583

Lawmakers also heard from a panel including representatives of the state’s landlords and developers who argued that HB 2583 is counterproductive. They said it will only hurt those it aims to help. The real problem, they said, is a supply and demand dynamic — regulations should be loosened to allow for more housing construction.

“Make no mistake about House Bill 2583 — it is not a local control bill, it is a rent control bill,” said Roger Valdez with Seattle for Growth. “… they want rent control. I can assure you that if you pass this legislation, and it becomes law, Seattle will enact rent control measures … if you want to affect price, the best thing to do is not more regulation, more rules, and more limits and restrictions — but more housing, more housing, more housing.”

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Valdez likened people who disagree with his argument to flat earthers ignoring facts.

“What rent control does, it’s like being worried about your car going too fast down the freeway, and instead of taking your foot off the gas, it locks your speedometer at 60 mph,” he said. “It doesn’t change the underlying , fundamental problem of there being housing scarcity in cities growing quickly.”

HB 2583 remains in committee and has yet to make it to the House floor. It has a companion bill in the Senate, SB 6400. HB 2583 has 13 sponsors from areas that have been affected by rent increases, including:

  • Rep. Nicole Macri (D), 43rd Legislative District (Seattle)
  • Rep. Mia Gregerson (D), 33rd Legislative District (Des Moines, SeaTac, Kent)
  • Rep. Noel Frame (D), 36 Legislative District (Seattle)
  • Rep. Gerry Pollet (D), 46th Legislative District (Lake City, Kenmore)
  • Rep. Laurie Dolan (D), 22nd Legislative District (Olympia)
  • Rep. Strom Peterson (D), 21st Legislative District  (Edmonds)
  • Rep. Sherry Appleton (D), 23rd Legislative District (Kitsap County)
  • Rep. Sharon Wylie (D), 49th Legislative District (Vancouver)
  • Rep. Eileen Cody (D), 34th Legislative District (Vashon Island, Seattle)
  • Rep. Gael Tarleton (D), 36th Legislative District (Seattle)
  • Rep. June Robinson (D), 38th Legislative District (Everett)
  • Rep. Beth Doglio (D), 22nd Legislative District (Olympia)
  • Rep. Timm Ormsby (D), 3rd Legislative District (Spokane)

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