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Could apartments soon go to the highest bidder in Seattle?

Affordable housing proponents are warning the new technology could increase rents in Seattle.

Affordable housing proponents are warning a new technology could increase rents in Seattle. It's called rent-bidding, and a company behind it says it’s helping streamline a cumbersome and costly process.

“The reason that is an issue is because in an auction, basically, the person able to pay the most, the richest tenant wins,” said Alexander Novokhodko, a UW senior who serves in the student senate.

He and some of his colleagues recently passed a measure calling for a ban on rent bidding in Seattle. They're concerned it could amp up the already intense competition for apartments.

New platforms like Rentberry allow landlords to list properties and potential renters can submit bids. They set a price they'd be willing to pay, and a property owner can accept or reject that.

“Technology, in general, especially when it intersects with profitable things like housing, moves a mile a minute, and government kind of needs to get ahead of that,” Novokhodko said.

Rentberry says it offers flexibility, transparency and the ability to save money. It says its technology levels the playing field by showing applicants current offers on properties, so they can make educated decisions on how much they are willing to pay for a home, all without the burden of multiple costly applications.

Novokhodko and other UW senators recently presented their legislation to a group of Seattle City Council members. They hope to continue that discussion as a way to brace for possible impacts.