A WMFHA Win; Rent Control Fails in Seattle

Posted By: Ryan Makinster Advocacy News,

On August 1, the Seattle City Council, by a vote of 5-2, killed Councilmember Sawant’s ill-conceived rent control “trigger” law, ordinance CB 120606 with Councilmembers Nelson, Herbold, Strauss, Lewis, Peterson, and Juarez voting against passage, Mosqueda excused, and Sawant and Morales voting in favor.


Although state law pre-empts local rent control measures, Sawant was hoping to use the passage of this law to spur the removal of the state pre-emption, as well as a grassroots effort to pass similar “trigger” laws in other cities.


Government Affairs staff, WMFHA members, and stakeholder partners worked on this issue extensively over the last 6 weeks leading up to the council meeting. Our efforts were focused on educating council members and the public on the harmful impacts rent control will have on our already dire housing crisis.


Additionally, a letter writing campaign (generating 420 submissions) and testimony by housing providers, Partnership for Affordable Housing (PAH) also executed a short but high impact campaign targeting sympathetic voters, patching them through to key council targets; Councilmembers Dan Stauss and Andrew Lewis. This campaign generated over 312 contacts with 235 callers connected to their respective councilmember.


The first win for the coalition was in the Sustainability and Renters Rights committee, chaired by Councilmember Sawant. The vote to recommend the passage of this ordinance to full council failed by a vote of 3-2, with Councilmembers Juarez, Nelson, and Lewis voting against the motion; Councilmembers Sawant and Morales voting in favor.


If passed, what WOULD HAVE Sawant’s rent control done?

  • Frozen all rents for 18 months AFTER the state repeal on local pre-emption
  • Limited rent increases on all properties to no more than CPI (inflation)
  • Exceptions included government owned and publicly subsidized housing options
  • No vacancy decontrol
    • Cannot raise rents to market rate once a tenant moves out
  • Created a complicated Rent Control Commission.
      • 7 districts represented by:
        • 1 housing provider
        • 5 tenant/housing advocates