The Continued March of ARCH

Posted By: Daniel Bannon Advocacy,

As many of you are aware, A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH) has proposed a suite of tenant protections to several cities throughout Washington state. We have addressed this topic in the past, but these proposals continue to sweep across King County. It is imperative that we are educated and prepared for the continued proposal of ARCH recommendations that will likely appear in your local jurisdiction if they haven’t already. It is important to RHAWA that our members have a deep understanding of what these ARCH proposals are, how they came to be, and why they seem to be so compelling to local Councils. It is RHAWA’s hope that this breakdown will allow our members to more effectively advocate against these proposals, as we have already seen the negative impacts of similar restrictive housing policies on markets such as Seattle.

To begin our deep dive into ARCH, we should first observe statements directly from the organization. ARCH has laid out five key motivations that drive their efforts, they state:

A Regional Coalition for Housing was created in 1992 through an interlocal agreement between the cities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and King County, following a study undertaken by a Citizen's Affordable Housing Task Force in Bellevue, which found that:

  • There is a growing need for affordable housing in Eastside King County;
  • There are many gaps in the current delivery system;
  • Local government support is critical to increasing the affordable housing supply;
  • Increased local government support complements the efforts of private sector housing developers; and
  • Local governments that work together can be more effective.

RHAWA can confirm that we are seeing the supply of housing drop dramatically in King County, which is resulting in an increase in rental prices. We also acknowledge the need for local government support in order to increase the supply of housing and maintain a healthy rental market with reasonable rental prices. Lastly, we are supportive of local government efforts to work together to maintain consistency, while also consulting industry representatives in order to truly understand the needs of housing providers which directly impacts the needs of residents. However, ARCH and RHAWA fundamentally differ in the method by which we are attempting to remedy the problems in the rental housing industry. ARCH’s recommendations fail to address the issues in the rental housing industry because they fail to account for the needs of residents and housing providers. The proposals we are seeing are as follows:

  • Require housing providers to provide 120 days’ notice of rent increases of 3% or more, and 180 days’ notice of rent increases 10% or more.
  • Establish a cap on late fees of 1.5% of one month’s rent.
  • Establish a cap on move-in fees of one month’s rent.

These proposals fail to address the problems in our industry because they approach the issue from a one-sided perspective. Addressing 180-day (about 6 months) rent increase notices, a survey of our membership found that this ranked in the top two most difficult policies for our members to navigate. We know many of our members are already aware of how this kind of policy negatively impacts their operations, but below you will find an excerpt from our public testimony explaining the damaging impacts of this policy:

“Both a 120 and 180-day notice requirement for rent increases does not allow housing providers to accurately assess their costs increasing, or the state of the market towards the end of a lease (typically when rents are adjusted). This will result in rent increases that are based on an assumption of what costs might be incurred and the state of the rental market four months down the line. Accurate rent increases are crucial to keeping naturally occurring affordable housing. In most cases, if the market has remained stagnant, many housing providers will choose to not increase rents year over year. Without the ability to accurately predict the market, as well as assess upcoming expenses, many housing providers will be forced to perpetually raise rents in anticipation of rising costs.

We have seen the negative impacts of excessive notice period in rental markets all over Washington. In Seattle for example, 180-days' notice of rent increase is required, which is one of the factors contributing to the rising cost of rent in the city. Policies that make it more difficult to provide housing have proven time and time again to harm the natural state of the market and lengthy notice periods for rent increases are one of the main issues the market is facing.”

RHAWA is consistently making appearances in City Councils’ public testimony to provide statements explaining the impact of ARCH recommendations. Our hope is that a breakdown of how this policy impacts housing providers will effectively communicate how these policies will have a negative impact on the rental housing industry as a whole. RHAWA also meets privately with councilmembers in order to dive deeper into these recommendations and elaborate on the statements we provide in public testimony. These methods have recently proven to be effective, as the most recent city to discuss ARCH proposals, Newcastle, determined in a 4-3 vote to not pass the proposed ARCH recommendations. This is a huge win for housing providers in Newcastle and the rest of King County as it will encourage other municipalities to think beyond what ARCH proposals are intended to do and observe what these policies actually do.

Another interesting development in the spread of these ARCH proposals is the role that Bellevue City Council plays in the motivations of other councils. In Issaquah for example, several councilmembers wanted to wait to pass the proposed ARCH recommendations until they observed the actions of Bellevue City Council (they were unfortunately unsuccessful in these efforts). This hesitancy relates back to one of the founding principles of ARCH, to encourage local governments to work together and increase their effectiveness. It is interesting that Bellevue was one of the original cities involved in ARCH, but they seem hesitant to propose the recommendations themselves. RHAWA is hopeful that Bellevue has observed the negative impacts these policies are having on the industry and can motivate other cities to consider alternative perspectives in the same way that Newcastle recently did. We hope that Bellevue will take note of Newcastle’s consideration of both housing providers and residents and will therefore motivate other city councils to dig deeper into the real impacts of ARCH proposals.
RHAWA will continue to tirelessly advocate on behalf of our members, and we are greatly encouraged by the recent wins in local jurisdictions. As always, I encourage all our members to be on the lookout for RHAWA Calls to Action which will inform you if/when the ARCH proposals or other issues appear in front of your city council. Member participation and first-hand accounts are crucial in communicating the shortcomings of these policies and the negative impact these policies have on all housing providers. Especially with the legislative session coming up in January, we must be prepared for the continued spread of these proposals and be ready to share our stories with lawmakers. It is only through communication and dedication that we will maintain a favorable rental housing market for both residents and housing providers. So please get involved if you have not already and feel free to reach out to our advocacy team if you have any questions or need some guidance on advocacy efforts. We love to hear from our members to better inform ourselves about your experiences and offer some insight into our efforts. Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.