We Need More Housing. Not Arbitrary Eviction Laws that Take Rental Homes off the Market


Councilmember Kshama Sawant recently proposed an extended ban on evictions pegged to the school year.

This is the latest idea purportedly meant to bolster housing stability amid Seattle's lack of affordable housing options. Yet, if the city's goal is to increase stability and access to housing, the eviction bban will have the opposite effect. Local and state bans have already resulted in the loss of dozens of affordable rentals across the state. More losses are coming if this ban goes into effect.

Instead, the city needs to pave the way to create more rental housing at all price points – especially for middle income earners. The best way to do this is by changing laws that prevent affordable multifamily buildings from being created. Right now, only a few special zoning areas allow for dense affordable housing.

City policymakers should redirect their energy away from laws that restrict rental housing and put them toward addressing NIMBYism, wealthy homeowners that oppose new housing, and exclusionary zoning policies that prevent housing creation. Meanwhile, recent infusions of rental assistance are available to support people at risk of falling behind on their rent.

Rental Assistance is Proven to Support Residents and Housing Providers

Evictions are always a last resort. They are costly processes that can destabilize both residents and housing providers. That’s why King County’s eviction rate is so incredibly low at just .41%. The vast majority of these evictions are for non-payment of rent that can be better addressed with direct support.

With evictions costing upward of $20,000, versus the average amount of $1,420 in rental assistance needed to support residents at risk of eviction, it’s clear rental assistance is the best approach to help cover housing costs and avoid evictions.

Both the state and federal governments have infused tens of millions of dollars in emergency rental assistance for struggling residents and housing providers. On top of that, housing providers and tenant organizations came together to support a brand-new statewide program that funds rental assistance in perpetuity for Washingtonians in need.

Where the Rent Goes

90 percent of rental payments go to cover mortgages, taxes, maintained costs, and utilities. Only ten cents of every dollar of rent is returned to the housing provider. If evictions are banned, housing providers lose the final tool available to them to collect rent and cover these significant costs.

We all share the same goal: access to quality housing at all price points that meet the needs of everyone. We can achieve this shared goal by supporting the creation of new housing, maintaining our current stock of affordable housing, and avoiding onerous restrictions on rental housing that drives small, affordable homes off the market.