RHAWA Partners Speak to the State Legislature About our Current Housing Crisis

Posted By: Alex Robertson (deleted) Advocacy,
RHAWA industry partners and fellow small landlords addressed the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability and Financial Institutions, Economic Development and Trade Committees this week. They shared their experiences and perspectives on some of the many issues facing housing providers in the current climate.
Morgan Shook
the Senior Policy Advisor with ECONorthwest Presenting insights into the current shortage of housing and the dangers of  rent conttrol policies
ECONorthwest's data showed that statewide, only 68 houses were build for every 100 households. He went on to say that there are many challenges when attempting to construct new housing. It can be very time consuming, the Growth Management Act can limit what can be built, construction materials are taxed at the retail rate and there can be community opposition to new construction to name a few. One of the other things that he pointed out that would restrict the number of private investors willing to construct more housing was rent control. Based on data gathered by ECONorthwest and a study done by Stanford University, jurisdictions with rent control in place saw a drop in the amount of housing units built.
Brandon Leyritz
a small Housing Provider in Auburn.

He shared his struggles under the moratorium with the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability Committee. Brandon purchased a duplex and inherited the tenants on one side and lived in the other prior to the covid emergency. In the beginning everything went well. However, non-payment of rent and lease violations had began before the moratorium was enacted. Brandon offered payment plans and accommodations to every extent he could, he provided information for all assistance programs he was aware of. When they stopped paying the rent and refused to communicate with him in January, prior to the moratorium, Brandon knew he could not survive very long in this situation. However by the time he had prepared the necessary paperwork, the moratorium was out into effect and his hands were tied. He offered to forgive all of the past due rent and waive all of the fees if the tenants would vacate the unit. The tenants rejected the offer because they knew the moratorium meant that Brandon could not evict them.

People came and went at will, without any protective masks or social distancing. Brandon got many complaints from the neighbors for nuisance and safety hazards but was unable to do anything. Unable to afford his mortgage, Brandon had to vacate his unit to rent it out to tenants who would pay the rent. He filed many complaints with the Attorney General's Office and tried working with multiple attorney's to see if there was anything he could do. He was told that all he could do was wait for the moratorium to end. The problems continued until July, when the tenants who had not been paying rent lit fireworks inside the unit, starting a fire. The tenants had disabled the smoke detectors and the fire made both unit uninhabitable. Now Brandon will have to wait for repairs to the units before being able to rent them out once again and two families have lost their homes.
Robert Akhtar
purchased a small multifamily building in Seatac with his wife five years ago as a retirement plan.
They have six tenants that range from seven and 13 months behind on rent, totaling $77,000 in unpaid rent. He has tried to communicate with his tenants to arrange a payment plan that would suit their needs. He had even had to start the eviction process with two of his tenants, but was unable to complete the eviction because of the moratorium. As the moratorium got extended time and time again, Robert and his wife had to dip further and further into their savings. Now they are months behind on they power, water, sewer and property taxes. They are four months behind on their mortgage, only saved by the fact that their bank has given them an extension. He has provided information for his tenants to contact assistance resources, none of them have reached out to attempt and access those resources. None of the tenants have even attempted to make a payment plan or make partial payments. Robert has been paying to maintain the laundry and garbage services out of his own pocket. Tenants have been involved with graffiti on the property, which lowers the value and feeling of safety in the community. He ended with a very poignant quote, "The moratorium has tied our hands, and we are pleading for help."