A push to allow Seattle to consider rent control and other rent regulations seems to have stalled at the City Council after a vote Thursday.

Share story

A push to allow Seattle to consider rent restrictions, including rent control, appears to have stalled at the City Council.

Before a standing-room crowd of mostly supporters, a rent-restriction resolution failed to win a majority Thursday in a committee vote.

Six council members were evenly split on the resolution asking the state Legislature to lift a 1981 ban that does not allow rent regulations. The resolution will move to the full council probably in two or three weeks for a final vote.

Not voting Thursday were council members Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell.

Burgess has said he’s against the resolution; Harrell has said he supports it. Bagshaw’s position is murky.

In a campaign questionnaire asking if she wanted state lawmakers to lift the ban, she replied: “I would like to work with State and local leadership to positively impact the rental market by increasing supply and protecting tenants from unfair practices. Rent control is not enough.”

She went on to list 10 other remedies, concluding with support for recommendations of Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing and Livability Agenda (HALA) Committee, which did not endorse rent control. Murray does not support the resolution either, saying cities with rent control are among the most expensive in the country.

Bagshaw, who was chairing a different committee meeting Thursday afternoon, did not immediately return calls.

In Thursday morning’s committee vote, Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien and Kshama Sawant backed the resolution seeking to give Seattle local control on rent regulations. Jean Godden, John Okomoto and Tom Rasmussen opposed it. Those three will not be on the council next year. Godden lost her primary election. Rasmussen is retiring. And Okomoto was temporarily appointed after Councilmember Sally Clark quit earlier this year to take a job at the University of Washington.

Godden had previously supported the resolution but said Thursday it would probably be more fruitful to focus on other housing policies, such as tax exemptions for developers who set aside some rent-restricted apartments.

Rasmussen struck a similar note, saying the Legislature is unlikely to lift its ban, making rent control a distraction that takes away from more realistic options. “If you want action now, this is not it,” he said of the resolution.

Under council rules, it’s up to the committee Chair Okomoto and Council President Burgess to decide when the full council votes. Burgess said this coming Monday is unlikely. Murray gives his budget speech to the council the following Monday, which could push a vote out to Oct. 5.

Tom Barnard, 61, a North Seattle resident who said he’s experienced steep rent hikes, told the council it’s not futile to ask Olympia to lift the ban. “People said $15 an hour (minimum wage) was impossible, too,” Barnard said.

After the deadlocked vote, Patti Doyle, 73, said she was disappointed in the council. Doyle said she lived in Ballard for 35 years but lost her apartment when her landlord sold the building. Now she lives in Northeast Seattle and said she’s “one more increase away from not affording” her apartment.

“It’s business as usual if we don’t bring this to Olympia,” she said. “I will be happy to see the back of Jean Godden, Tom Rasmussen and John Okomoto.”

Related Stories