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Seattle Rent Control Proposal

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July 27, 2023

Outgoing Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has introduced legislation that would establish rent control in Seattle.

Because Washington State prohibits any regulation of the amount of rent a landlord can charge, the ordinance would go into effect only if the state prohibition were repealed. If that happened, the ordinance would freeze rent increases between the time of the repeal and 18 months after. At that point, the ordinance would establish maximum annual rent increases that would apply to all rental housing. The ordinance also would establish a rent control commission made up of district rent control boards, who would hear petitions for exemption from the maximum annual rent increase.

SKCR will be working with our partners in the rental housing community to defeat this legislation. We will educate councilmembers about the failed experiences of cities that have instituted rental control (like New York and San Francisco) as well as the role rental housing plays in homeownership. Many of our members work with buyers who rely on rental income from an accessory unit or duplex to qualify for a mortgage and service that mortgage.

We believe the proposal is motivated, in part, by Councilmember Sawant’s interest in mobilizing pro-rent control constituencies to support pro-rent control candidates in the coming Seattle City Council primary and general elections. Activists’ pressure also will be directed at state legislators representing Seattle districts with the goal of overturing the state prohibition.

With our partners, we will be exploring the legality of passing rent control legislation at the city level while a state prohibition exists.

Lastly, it is important to note that Washington REALTORS® remains vigilant in its work to defeat bills that would repeal the state prohibition on rent control.

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