A Conversation with Representative Andrew Barkis, RHAWA’s 2021 Lawmaker of the Year
As many of our members are aware, Representative Andrew Barkis is a champion for rental housing providers in Olympia. To show our gratitude, we awarded Representative Barkis with our 2021 Lawmaker of the Year award which recognized outstanding work in representing the needs of small housing providers across the state. Representative Barkis was kind enough to spend an afternoon with me earlier this month, wherein I gained some insight into his experience in the rental housing industry and the legislature.
“Painting hallways and plunging toilets, that's where you start in the business.”
Barkis’ experience managing properties began in 1989; while an undergraduate, he oversaw a 20-unit building just a few blocks away from Seattle University: “Painting hallways and plunging toilets, that's where you start in the business.” After a knee injury halted his plans to serve as an officer in the military, Barkis began working for a larger property management company in Spokane. where he quickly worked up the ladder and grew his experience in the industry. After moving back to Seattle in 1996 Barkis was managing 40 units for Century 21 Hometown and helped grow this business for nearly a decade before purchasing the company in 2005. Barkis’ skills in the industry allowed Century 21 Hometown to grow from 40 units to 1,200 units at their peak, making them one of the largest property management companies in the region.
“The conversation around landlord-tenant law has, for years, been ‘tenant centric’.”
Representative Barkis joined the state legislature in 2016 where his decades of experience in the rental housing industry have proven invaluable to crafting and sometimes opposing legislation. He related to me how his experience in the rental housing industry gave him a complex and multifaceted perspective on rental housing laws and how these laws impact housing providers. He emphasized that: “The conversation around landlord-tenant law has, for years, been ‘tenant centric’.” Barkis went on to highlight the importance of the coalition of associations and business-minded lawmakers which he was a key player in creating. He stated, “we were able to produce a unified counter-voice to the groups that have been driving a narrative of rental housing policy for so long.” Later in our conversation, Rep. Barkis mentioned that the creation of this coalition is one of his proudest moments in the legislature, seeing it provide a framework for the voices of housing providers to be heard in Olympia.
“we've been saying for years, anything that comes out of Seattle
eventually ends up in Olympia.”
If there's one thing we know about Rep. Barkis, it is the fact that he is an incredible team player. He mentioned that collaboration, partnership, and making friends are some of his key skills in the legislature. He noted that good policy is balanced policy, highlighting the importance of listening to opinions from experienced individuals on both sides of the aisle. Stemming from this, we spoke about the ways unbalanced politics in local city governments can creep into the state legislature; “we've been saying for years, anything that comes out of Seattle eventually ends up in Olympia.” This hit home for me, emphasizing how our local advocacy efforts and the participation of our members helps lawmakers in Olympia. It was great to hear Rep. Barkis speak on the importance of keeping things balanced in the legislature, too often we are seeing policies that do not properly address the needs of small housing providers and we are lucky to have experienced lawmakers such as Rep. Barkis who support quality legislation. Barkis’ ability to collaborate, combined with his experience in the rental housing industry, are key to maintaining his reputation as a champion of beneficial rental housing policy.
“This year we stopped every piece of bad legislation… we laid down
the marker and said ‘enough is enough.’”
We discussed Rep. Barkis’ motivation to become a member of the legislature. He drove home the fact that he has always been drawn to serving his community to the greatest extent possible. He states that he wanted to make a difference not only in his community but in the greater community of Washington state. While speaking on the importance of working with lawmakers who have practical business experience, Barkis smiled and mentioned he was excited about the upcoming election season. He said he believes this year could be key in turning the tide of politics in Washington. His confidence is on the basis of the success we experienced in the 2022 legislative session: “This year we stopped every piece of bad legislation… we laid down the marker and said ‘enough is enough.’” Following this, he reemphasized the importance of the participation of our members and the significance of sharing our experiences with lawmakers, specifically speaking on the opportunities that virtual testimony can provide in terms of increasing participation.
“the stats are bearing out… it is imperative that we are looking out for housing providers who need that help”.
As we wrapped up our conversation, Representative Barkis and I spoke about some of his goals for next year's legislative session. He mentioned the importance of rental assistance when it is utilized effectively and how the legislature must work harder to effectively transition out of the eviction moratorium landscape that is still impacting housing providers today. He ended on a positive note stating that he plans to go on the offensive in the next legislative session after years of being forced to be on the defensive. The loss of rental housing units in the state has highlighted the fact that positive changes need to be made to the rental housing industry: “the stats are bearing out… it is imperative that we are looking out for housing providers who need that help”.
Representative Barkis is the kind of lawmaker RHAWA wants more of in the legislature. His experience, knowledge and cooperative skills are a great asset not only to our association, but to the legislature as a whole. We greatly appreciate him taking the time to share his story with our membership and look forward to continuing to work with him to improve rental housing laws in our state.
Every year we encourage our membership to donate to the RHAWA PAC but this year we also suggest that you show your appreciation to our housing provider champion and make a donation to Representative Barkis’ campaign directly. If you would like to donate go to electandrewbarkis.org.