Lawmakers listen to tenants' concerns over rising rents

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by NATALIE SWABY / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 8:52 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 20 at 12:19 AM

SEATTLE - Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata and State Senator David Frockt listened to concerns from tenants who say they can not afford rising rents in Seattle.

At a Thursday night meeting, the focus was on local solutions to save homes, according to Jonathan Grant with the Tenants Union of Washington State. Dozens filled City Hall chambers and discussed possible Legislative remedies.
 
One renter in attendance said, "I signed a nine month lease for $550 which was fine. At the end of that lease they jacked it up to $900 which was a lot. I stayed for a year. Then they renovated and raised rent to $1100."

Landlord Hugh Brannon was also at the evening meeting. Over the course of three decades he has built up his business on Dexter Avenue North.
 
"I have a five unit apartment building across the street and on this side of the street I own four houses," said Brannon. "I have raised my rents, but I am certainly below what they are charging in the new buildings."
 
Before the legislative session, the topic of rising rents has sparked conversations about rent control, which is currently prohibited in Seattle.
 
"Rent control does not work. It favors a few people who get to hang on to their apartments, but apartment construction slows and the quality of maintenance goes down because the landlords don't have the money they once had," said Brannon.
 
Some tenants arrived at the evening meeting with a different point of view, wanting to see the law preventing rent controls changed.
 
Lisa Herbold, legislative aide to Councilmember Licata, said there's only so much that can be accomplished during the 60-day legislative session.
 
"We will not repeal the prohibition against rent control in this session. And given that we will not be able to do that, is there an incremental change that would help people in the interim," asked Herbold.
 
Tenants told lawmakers that want to see something done in Olympia to help renters in Seattle. The legislative session begins on January 13.
 

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