A request to repeal the statewide ban on rent control is dead on arrival in Olympia, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the Seattle City Council.
RENT control is banned under a 1981 state law, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
Not even because of a Seattle City Council resolution passed this week asking the Legislature to change the law.
To end the ban, Seattle would magically need to convince a politically split Legislature.
A key Republican in the GOP-led Senate, Mark Miloscia of Federal Way, told KING 5 that the idea of a repeal is “dead on arrival” because “there is no support in any districts outside of Seattle to get rid of the statewide ban.”
The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, welcomed a debate, but also declared it a cadaver. “Without bipartisan support, it would be hard to move.” In fact, the Legislature couldn’t even muster support for a bill last year that simply gave renters more notice of rent hikes.
It’s not clear the Seattle City Council itself would impose rent control if given the authority. A fierce council resolution to repeal the statewide ban sponsored by socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been sitting dormant since June.
Rent control is a failed economic policy, well-documented in other cities, but that doesn’t stop Sawant and her supporters from tossing it out as a red-meat issue for her base. Rent control won’t be enacted, and wouldn’t make Seattle more affordable, but Sawant and council candidate Jon Grant seem to think they’ll win votes by tilting at windmills.
Council President Tim Burgess, Grant’s opponent, strode in this week with a more pragmatic compromise. He introduced and immediately got unanimous approval for a resolution seeking repeal or modification of the ban — but only if it can be done “without causing a negative impact on the quality or quantity of housing supply.” Burgess suggests that could mean a cap on exorbitant rent hikes and more notice to tenants of changes.
Repealing the statewide rent-control ban is still dead on arrival in the Legislature, regardless of a more nuanced request from Seattle. This is a waste of the council’s time.
Instead, the council should continue plowing through the recommendations in Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee’s report. It is chock full of ideas, big and small, to address sticker-shock rent increases and to preserve the critical supply of older, lower-cost apartments most at risk of becoming lost to gentrification.
Some ideas show promise of actually doing something, versus a dead-on-arrival bit of political windbaggery advocating for the failed idea of rent control.