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Mayor Durkan Applauds City Council’s Vote to Approve Her Legislation to Protect Renters by Strengthening Landlord-Tenant Regulations

Seattle (September 30, 2019) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today applauded City Council’s unanimous vote to approve her suite of legislation to better protect renters at risk of eviction and displacement.

“Over the past decade, Seattle was the fastest growing city in the country and our housing supply has not kept up with demand. All this growth has put some significant pressures on our city, like skyrocketing rents and homes that are out of reach for too many,” said Mayor Durkan. “As rent and housing costs increase, we must seize every opportunity to take commonsense steps like clarifying rules for landlords and tenants and reducing burdens on renters so residents can remain in their homes.”

To strengthen tenant protections, in July, Mayor Durkan directed the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) to draft legislation taking additional steps to help keep Seattle residents in their homes, by: 

  • Improving knowledge of tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities to help prevent disputes before they happen by making it unlawful for a landlord to issue a notice to terminate tenancy, increase housing costs, or enter a home unless that notice references how to access the City’s Renting in Seattle program that offers information and resources on the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords;
  • Increasing compliance of rental unit standards by requiring that landlords register with SDCI as part of the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) before delivering a notice to terminate a tenancy, (prior to this change landlords were required to register with RRIO much later in the process, prior to the court authorizing the eviction); 
  • Lowering the likelihood of disputes about rent payments by requiring that receipts are exchanged for cash rental transactions and upon request for other forms of payment; and 
  • Reducing the burden and cost that electronic banking requirements can place on tenants by requiring that landlords allow payment of housing costs by check, or other non-electronic means. 

Over 46 percent of Seattle residents live in rental housing. From 2012 to 2017, the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom has increased by 37 percent, reaching $1750. Renters who face eviction are disproportionately women, people of color, and are more likely to be at risk of displacement. In most cases where evictions are filed, they are filed with the tenant owing one month or less in rent.    

Throughout the 2019 Washington State Legislative Session, Mayor Durkan lobbied for increased funding for affordable housing and additional renters protections. 

Mayor Durkan has strengthened tenant protections as one of several measures used to address displacement as part of her “Housing Seattle Now” initiative, addressing the long-sought housing needs of low- and middle-income families. In addition to the investments from the Seattle Housing Levy and Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), Housing Seattle Now has:   

  • In partnership with Councilmember Lisa Herbold, updated City’s tenant protections to harmonize with new state laws and to better help residents stay in their homes;   
  • Renewed and improved the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program by limiting rent increases so homes can stay affordable;   
  • In partnership with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, invested $50 million in permanent supportive housing for people experiencing long-term homelessness; and  
  • Invested more than $78.2 million in new housing and anti-displacement measures as part of the 2020 budget, which will be funded from selling the under-utilized city-owned Mercer Mega Block properties: 
    • $42.2 million to provide affordable housing and address the pressures of displacement through a strategic investment fund;  
    • $15 million to create a revolving Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) acquisition loan fund; 
    • $15 million to increase investments in permanently affordable homeownership; and, 
    • $6 million for a new financing tool to create more affordable accessory dwelling units like backyard cottages and in-law apartments for low- and middle-income homeowners.
  • Increased investment in the development of permanently affordable homeownership opportunities on underutilized surplus city property by transferring a site at Yakima Avenue and transmitting legislation to utilize two additional Seattle City Light sites in Northwest Seattle; 
  • Announced her Fare Share plan for a modest tax on Uber and Lyft rides to provide $52 million in affordable housing development over 5 years near high quality transit; and
  • Released a plan for $25 million in new funds available for affordable housing investments for the City of Seattle by using existing revenues from the Real Estate Excise Taxes (REET) II.