Seattle Renters Rights Committee Votes on Rent Control

Posted By: Daniel Bannon Advocacy,

RHAWA is always closely watching developments in the Seattle City Council, particularly Councilmember Sawant’s efforts to establish a destructive rent control policy in the city. On Friday, Sawant's committee was considering the proposal that is blatantly illegal and would only make the region’s housing affordability crisis worse. 

Fortunately, it looks like our advocacy efforts worked and this will stall this current rent control effort on new and existing units for now. With a 3-2 vote, the ordinance has failed to gain support in Sawant's own committee. However, the ordinance will still come before the full council early in August. We must rally together to defeat this ordinance once again.

Sawant’s ordinance would have set up a new, massive local bureaucracy that would consider exemptions, consisting of a 42 person Commission and seven Boards with six members each. Each board would have five renters and one landlord, not exactly a fair representation.

RHAWA will continue to make it as easy as possible for membership to get involved. Stay on the lookout for our Advocacy Emails and donate to RHAWA PAC & LDF to prevent this kind of bad policy in the future. The PAC and LDF are the first line of defense against this kind of misguided policy.


To quote RHAWA Lobbyist, Chester Baldwin: “ It’s astounding that we still have people pushing this antiquated and demonstrably bad policy. Let’s be clear, rent control has never worked anywhere and the data is pretty clear that if something like this ordinance were to pass, the City would be making housing affordability worse and losing out on millions in desperately needed tax revenues.”

Researchers recently modeled the impact of a rent cap in Seattle. Assuming a 7% annual cap showed that more than 20,000 units may not be built by 2030 and existing housing stock is at risk of falling into disrepair. The proposed ordinance restricts rents to CPI-W (currently 3.6%) but not less than zero. More than 45,000 are considered vulnerable during the same time period as operating costs grow but the ability of housing providers to provide adequate maintenance shrinks. In the last ten year's CPI-W increased by 30.67%, yet the average Seattle property tax increase was 69.31%. Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light rates increases have also been significantly higher than inflation. Seattle needs property tax control more than rent control.

This kind of rent control is putting future development and existing housing stock at risk. The financial impacts are staggering with losses of $5 million in property tax revenue every year and possibly $50 million in lost sales tax revenue. The City Council needs to reject this proposal and start looking at ways to actually address housing affordability. A good start would be a rental assistance voucher program.

We are grateful to see this proposal voted down but we need your continued financial support to keep up our efforts. Helping RHAWA support moderate lawmakers through the RHAWA PAC is essential in the fight against bad policy. The RHAWA LDF serves as one of our most powerful tools to fight against harmful policies that pass. Bolstering both the RHAWA PAC and LDF is ESSENTIAL in the fight against rent control.

Seattle isn’t alone in their desire to restrict property rights. Smaller cities around King County are taking notes and we need to stand up for our residential, commercial and retail members. Stay involved and donate today.