Seattle mayoral hopeful Cary Moon hit back at opponent Jenny Durkan Tuesday as the candidates sparred over how the city should deal with its affordable-housing shortage.

Share story

Seattle mayoral candidate Cary Moon returned fire Tuesday after opponent Jenny Durkan criticized a push by some local leaders to crack down on real-estate speculators, who may include people from overseas who don’t live in the homes they buy.

“It’s disappointing to see our opponent defending profiteers and Wall Street interests who are inflating Seattle’s housing market for their own gain,” Moon said in a statement.

“We used to be a local market — local builders, local buyers, local bankers — but now our housing is traded as a global commodity.”

With Moon and Durkan staking out ground after the Aug. 1 primary, Seattle’s affordable-housing struggles are emerging as a point of contrast.

Seattle officials grappling with home-price and rent increases have been debating whether to follow Vancouver’s lead.

British Columbia enacted a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers in metro Vancouver a year ago, while a 1 percent tax on unoccupied homes, passed by Vancouver officials in November, took effect last month.

The jury is out on whether overseas buyers and empty homes are a significant contributor to Seattle’s housing woes. There’s no hard data, though surveys have found the region popular among foreign investors, particularly those from China.

City lawyers think Seattle lacks the legal authority to impose taxes like those now covering Vancouver.

Some officials, like Moon and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, want the city to collect information on what they believe may be a major problem, while others are skeptical and say that effort could stoke anti-Asian sentiments. Herbold and King County Assessor John Wilson have clashed on the topic, with Durkan backing up Wilson.

“Jenny believes strongly that taxes, penalties and bans based on nationality are wrong and illegal,” a Durkan spokeswoman said over the weekend, decrying what she termed an “anti-Chinese buyer tax” and concluding, “We cannot go there — particularly in the age of (President Donald) Trump.”

In her retort Tuesday, Moon said Seattle needs to protect homes “for people who live and work here, particularly communities of color who are already being pushed out.”

She said, “Calling efforts to address the affordability crisis and escalating rents ‘anti-Chinese’ and ‘Trumpian’ is misleading and disingenuous.”

Moon says she wants to know “the number of housing units bought by corporations, cash buyers, shell companies and private equity firms, and the number of homes not purchased as a primary residence.”