Proposed Laws in Auburn Add to Housing Woes Amidst COVID-19 Uncertainty

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News, COVID-19 Resource Center,
A sweeping package of restrictive new housing laws is sailing through the Auburn City Council that will add to the mounting challenges housing providers are already experiencing as COVID-19 surges back.

These laws do not provide residents with critical rental assistance many need to cover their housing costs during the pandemic. Instead, they add potential new costs and uncertainty during a historically challenging time in housing.

The Rental Housing Industry During COVID-19

As an industry, we have been early and consistent supporters of bans on physical evictions while making the case for rental and mortgage assistance to help people who are affected by the pandemic remain safe and in their homes. Housing providers have stepped up to help their residents by waiving fees, working on payment plans, and connecting residents to state and community resources.

Rental housing is an essential service yet few new policies have been enacted to ensure this critical sector doesn’t break down and force critical rental homes off the market. Auburn’s proposed laws take aim at housing providers that are already struggling, like many businesses during this pandemic, rather than directing assistance to residents who need it most.


Housing Providers Have and Will Invest to Help Residents. Increased Costs and Uncertainty Make That Harder.

91 percent of the rent a tenant pays goes to mortgage holders, financial institutions, taxes, maintenance costs, payroll for staff, and utilities. Less than 10 percent goes back to the property owner. Adding costs, uncertainty, or reducing rental income at properties means there is less flexibility for housing providers to help residents who need it.

Some government programs are meant to help housing providers with government-backed mortgages with forbearance, but the implementation of those programs have been inconsistent. Many mortgage companies are not offering true forbearance which prevents housing providers from passing savings on to their renters.


Auburn’s New Rental Housing Laws Miss the Mark and Need More Debate

Auburn’s proposed laws were written and fast-tracked under the guise of COVID-19 relief yet do not provide residents with any additional support or help to cover their housing costs. Instead, the proposals target housing providers who are already struggling during the pandemic. These laws may be well-intentioned but inconsistent writing, oversights, new programs, and funding questions need more debate.

We would like to work with the city to:

  • Partner with housing providers, other cities, renter lobbyists, and community groups to allocate CARES funding to Auburn and other cities that are struggling to support residents with their housing costs.
  • Address confusing inconsistencies with existing state law about listing rental homes for rent or for sale.
  • Understand better how these proposed new laws, enforcement, web and written reporting requirements, and other provisions will be paid for. We are very concerned about taxes that increase the cost of rent when residents and housing providers are already struggling to make ends meet.

We provided comments to the city council in writing and have not heard back. We are in the business of providing housing and keeping people in their homes – not the other way around. We hope for the opportunity to bring our expertise to policymakers to strengthen the rental housing market and help keep people in their homes.