Tenants' advocates report 150% rent increases

Tenants' rights groups in Seattle said they have seen a 10% increase in the number of people reporting rent increases anywhere from 50 to 150 percent in Seattle and other parts of King County.

Tenants' rights groups said they have seen a 10% increase in people reporting rent increases in Seattle and other parts of King County. Those increases range anywhere from 50 to 150%.

The King County Housing Authority estimates just a 4.5% vacancy rate in the county and adds for every 100 low income households there are just 15 affordable rental units.

Sean Heron said the rent increases are pricing more people out of King County and contributing to a homeless problem. Heron added at least 6,000 homeless students have been identified in King County school districts.

"I think what is really scary, is there is no way to really protect yourself," said Trish Abbate, a renters' advocate with Solid Ground. "It is really affecting tenants in this city and outside of the city. There really isn't any neighborhood this isn't impacting."

Seattle has already expanded the warning about rent increases required of landlords from the state mandated 30 days to 60 days, but Council members recognize it's not enough.

Council Member Mike O'Brien has proposed a linkage fee program which would encourage developers to build affordable housing and impose a fee on developments to help the city fund more affordable housing.

Mayor Ed Murray has also created a task force to examine affordable housing. The group was expected to report back last week with its findings, but was given a one month extension.

Now Council Members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant are preparing to take on the state, demanding lawmakers in Olympia lift a ban on rent control in Washington State.

"This is insane," Sawant said. "Whose wages are going up by that much in the same time period?"

The tenants' group landlord.com compiled a list of states allowing rent control. It lists only four: New York, California, New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Sawant admitted getting a change in Washington and Seattle will be difficult.

"The reality is the majority of this government is not fighting for ordinary working Americans. They are fighting for corporations from whom they take campaign donations," Sawant said.

Landlords argue rent control can prevent them from charging real market value for a property. Others argue limits on rent can dissuade landlords from making upgrades on units under rent increase limits.

Sawant wouldn't get specific about when she will formally propose a draft resolution calling on lawmakers to lift the ban, but said to expect it in the next few months.

Sawant said she plans to reschedule a rent control rally that had been planned for today but was canceled to stand in solidarity with those protesting the Shell oil drilling rig.


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