Three City Council members—Tim Burgess, Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien—announced today they will introduce legislation creating the Seattle Renters’ Commission. The Commission is designed to give renters—approximately half of Seattle residents—a stronger voice at City Hall.
If the proposed legislation is approved by the Council, the 15-person volunteer commission would address topics ranging from housing affordability and neighborhood rezones to transportation and access to open space. “As rents continue to rise, it’s increasingly urgent that renters are given a forum to engage city government with a strong and organized voice. Half of households in Seattle are renters, with renters making up more than 80 percent of residents in certain neighborhoods, and that number is only climbing. That’s why we are creating this Commission, a kind of community council for renters,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide), the prime sponsor of the legislation.
The Seattle Renters’ Commission (SRC) will be expected to:
- Provide information, advice, and counsel to the City Council, Mayor, and City departments about a range of issues impacting life in the city, from transportation to education and public safety;
- Monitor the enforcement and effectiveness of legislation related to renters and renter protections; and
- Provide periodic advice on priorities, policies, and strategies for strengthening and enhancing the enforcement and effectiveness of renter protections.
The Council- and Mayor-appointed SRC members would consist of people living in an array of rental housing types, including students, low-income renters, LGBTQ renters, people with past felony convictions, and people in subsidized housing. It’s also expected that members be geographically representative of Seattle. SRC meetings will be open to the public.
“The new Renter’s Commission will not only be a valuable voice for the successful implementation and enforcement of the city’s new landlord tenant legislation, like Source of Income Discrimination and the Move In Fees legislation, as well as watch dogging enforcement of older laws like the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, and the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance. This commission will create a platform for renters to participate in other important pieces of legislative initiatives before the City Council, such as Mandatory Housing Affordability, or recommending new policies,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park).
“Rising rents are pushing residents out of the city, and that’s unacceptable. Low-income renters are nearly twice as likely as homeowners to be displaced by gentrification. I believe that the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring much needed perspective to our policy work about how we can grow equitably and inclusively,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle).
The Council members were inspired to create the SRC after they were approached with the idea by Zachary DeWolf of the Capitol Hill Community Council. The legislation was developed in partnership with the Capitol Hill Community Council, Capitol Hill Housing, Tenants Union, Washington CAN, Associated Students of the University of Washington, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, and LGBTQ Allyship.
The Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods & Finance Committee, chaired by Councilmember Burgess, is expected to discuss the legislation on Friday, March 3, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. in Council chambers.