We asked Seattle City Council candidates to submit answers to a questionnaire before meeting with us as The Urbanist Election Board decided which candidate to endorse in each race. We recapped candidates’ responses on affordable housing strategies and on Vision Zero. Another issue near and dear to our hearts is evictions and an anti-displacement strategy to address them. As Seattle booms and high-income earners move in, low- and middle-income folks–disproportionately people of color–are getting priced out, and some landlords are all too happy to give them a push out the door.
We asked: What would you do as a city council member to address evictions and the displacement they cause, particularly in communities of color?
Here’s how each of the candidates who answered our questionnaire responded. You can click on each candidate’s name to get a PDF of each candidate’s entire questionnaire. We will be highlighting some of the other big issues addressed in the questionnaire in the coming days as ballots arrive in your mailboxes. Our primary endorsements are available here.
Lisa Herbold (District 1)
We must fix our broken eviction system that displaces people from their homes and communities when they are “a dollar short and a day late”. The mark of an eviction has long-term consequences, and as we’ve seen with important studies on evictions like the “Losing Home” report, people of color, specifically Black women are disproportionately impacted by evictions locally. There are several recommendations I am leading on in the report that could continue to expand the ability for the City to address evictions even past the victories the Housing Alliance lead on in the 2019 state legislature.
I voted to approve the citywide MHA upzone this March. I believe that the City needs to do more to prevent a net loss of affordable housing as our population grows, and tying development capacity to replacement of or payments toward affordable housing is one important strategy.
Based on a racial equity assessment of displacement, I am championing a policy that would promote the development of additional affordable housing in areas at high displacement risk that has disproportionately impacted communities of color. The goal of this policy is to ensure that developers that build housing that threatens naturally-occurring affordable housing stock either a. replace removed housing units in their new developments or b. pay more into the MHA fund so that the City has greater capacity to build replacement affordable housing.
That said, per my efforts to pass anti-displacement legislation, I am concerned about the loss of naturally-occurring affordable housing, specifically in areas of high-displacement risk. Relying on our MHA tool is inadequate to solely counter the impact of market-rate development in the City.
Tammy Morales (District 2)
Seattle has a responsibility to its residents to put them first by enforcing renter protection laws, educating landlords and tenants, and enacting stronger renter protection and rent stabilization programs.
- Provide resources for small/new landlords on their responsibilities and the rights of tenants.
- Eviction reform – extend notice to 21 days. Make it harder for folks to become homeless
- Ensure that tenants have legal representation at eviction court.
- Increase the Notice Period for Rent Increases to 90 days.
- Anti-displacement voucher – increase rental relocation assistance to serve more people for longer period.
- Equipping SDCI (Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections) to more vigorously enforce renter protections against harassment and insufficient heating.
- Provide the SDCI with increased funding and review their inspection procedures to make sure inspections are thorough.
- SDCI should work with stakeholders to develop guidelines and an enforcement framework to protect renters from retaliation.
Christopher Peguero (District 2)
We need to establish rent control in the city and we also need to increase the time that people have to pay their rent past the due date. This includes passing city ordinances that place tenants first and in turn will reduce the rate at which people are being placed out of their homes.
Phyllis Porter (District 2)
We need to divert far more resources to rental assistance as well as creating an emergency resource pool for people who are on the verge of being evicted. I myself have struggled to pay rent in the past, so I understand first hand the challenges and worries of people in these situations.
Kshama Sawant (District 3)
I’m proud of the work my office has done, alongside renters themselves and organizations like the TenantsUnion of WA State and WA CAN, for residents in the city and in District 3. In particular, we fought with community members to pass the Move-In-Fee cap and payment plan, the “Carl Haglund” law barring rent increases at substandard rental homes, the Fair Chance Housing bill to limit the use of criminal records in rental housing applications, and a law requiring landlords to provide voter registration information to new tenants. The Move-In-Fee law means that Seattle renters no longer need thousands of dollars just to move in, caps how much landlords can charge in non-refundable deposits, and requires them to offer a payment plan for move-in fees.
We’ve united with tenants fighting eviction and displacement from the Central District, including the tenants at the Chateau Apartments at 19th and Fir, where black, Asian, and white working-class families faced economic eviction so that corporate developer Cadence could make millions in profits. But because we got organized and are fighting back, we’ve won an unheard-of concession from Cadence Real Estate offering $5,000 to each household in relocation assistance on top of the legal requirement. We’ll keep organizing until Cadence ensures alternate affordable apartments for the residents.
My office has fought with tenants on North Capitol Hill, in the Kenton Apartment building, where the tenants have won key victories because of getting organized.
We’re currently fighting with tenants facing no-cause evictions in Skyway, which is unincorporated King County, where they don’t have just cause protections. I have sent a letter to King County, urging them to pass just cause, but we are also urgently building a community fightback.
Logan Bowers (District 3)
I am glad that the Washington legislature passed SB 5600 earlier this year, which increased to 14 days the minimum notice to vacate for late rent. However, the system is still designed to favor landlords. As a renter myself, I know that most of us work very hard to afford their monthly rent. I support protections that give renters stability so that rent increases don’t turn into a housing crisis for the renter. In the long term however, the only way to prevent displacement, is to make sure we have enough housing at affordable prices for everyone, and that is why I focus on legalizing low cost multifamily housing in 100% of Seattle.
We are also seeing significant displacement of poorer communities and communities of color because the City Council has deliberately chosen to concentrate growth in those communities through the zoning code. At a time when Seattle’s population is booming and many communities of color are being displaced by redevelopment, the Council has outlawed new housing in the wealthy, white neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods are seeing population declines! This is unjust and facilitating a new wave of racial segregation in Seattle.
Zachary DeWolf (District 3)
A unique idea I am interested in pursuing are shallow rent subsidies, these are named in the King County Regional Affordable Housing Task Force as well as the report for our consolidation from Future Labs. I even wrote a proposal for shallow rent subsidies for
Shaun Scott (District 4)
We must partner with community organizations like Washington CAN and Socialist Alternative that have been pushing for a comprehensive tenants’ bill of rights for years. As someone who has been evicted myself, I understand that access to funds from the Seattle Housing Authority can be the difference between keeping an apartment and being charged with an unlawful detainer. I would like to see the Seattle Housing Authority assume a more proactive role in getting rent vouchers to vulnerable renters who need help the most.
Cathy Tuttle (District 4)
The main reason people face eviction is falling behind a month or less on rent. This disproportionately impacts communities of color. Going from three to 14 days before eviction will help keep people housed and allow agencies to work out back-rent payment plans. More protections are needed, including court and attorney fees for eviction protection and more outreach so renters can access needed services.
Emily Myers (District 4)
The doctoral research of sociologist Dr. Tim Thomas (UW) layed bare the racial disparities in eviction rates in our community. His work showed that 1 in 11 black residents experienced eviction in the Seattle area since 2004. Recent legislation has lengthened the notice period, but evictions still occur. The new legislation allows judges to consider mitigating circumstances when tenants fall behind on rent, however, most tenants lose these cases due to failure to show up. Seattle needs to provide legal support to tenants facing eviction and guaranteed right to an attorney. We need rent stabilization policies so that rents don’t rise year-to-year at rates far above inflation. We need to pass policies to change applications to prevent people from being punished for past evictions when looking for a new place to live and reconsider first/last/deposit maximum guidelines to help folks afford a new home and prevent entering homelessness when they do face eviction.
Joshua Newman (District 4)
I’m heartened by the strengthening of state eviction laws thanks to the work of 43rd District Representative Nicole Macri. The city government must work to improve its own processes and ability to ensure renters receive protection in a timely manner.
Debora Juarez (District 5)
The landmark eviction reform passed in the legislature is an important first step. We should look into additional protections for families facing eviction, rent stabilization and preventions for rental price gouging. We need better legal assistance for low income people facing violations, disputes, and the threat of eviction, funding for enforcement for renter protections and transitional housing for families and victims of domestic violence.We should be committed to creating a path to rental-ship, affordability, and home ownership.
Melissa Hall (District 6)
I want to license property managers to ensure training and to hold them to a set of professional responsibilities, including non-discrimination. I want us to end the wasteful and harmful practice of economic eviction from subsidized housing (instead referring to social workers for possible adjustments or one time payments) and I would like to see training from the housing justice project for judges to encourage them to use their new state granted powers in positive ways.
Heidi Wills (District 6)
About half of the housed families in Seattle are renters. And 46% of renters below 50% of AMI are severely cost burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing. These people are a job loss, a health crisis or a financial setback away from not being able to pay rent.
The Seattle Women’s Commission found that the average amount owed prior to eviction is $1,200. This is a small price for our community to bear compared with assisting someone out of homelessness. We should continue to make investments in rent stabilization funds to help tenants meet monthly rent payments in crisis situations so that landlords, especially small landlords, receive the money owed in
order to make their mortgage payments, and at the same time, we protect families, and primarily people of color who are disproportionally evicted and are also disproportionately homeless, from facing eviction.
Also, it’s important that landlords are mindful to provide written communications with their tenants in their native language. If a child had to translate a notice of eviction to his or her parents, it could be traumatic for that child. I was a non-profit director for a youth development organization in South Seattle called The First Tee for over 13 years. More than half the youth we served were children of color and many of them were from other countries whose parents did not know English. These children would translate our program materials for their parents. I often thought about how important it is for our community to recognize that many young people are in the position of serving as translators for their parents. We provided many materials in other languages as a social service organization but landlords might not be aware of these issues and their impacts.
Jay Fathi (District 6)
Women and people of color are disproportionately subject to eviction, and eviction is a major cause of homelessness in Seattle and the region. We should increase our investments in temporary rental/income assistance and rapid-rehousing to help those on the brink of homelessness and those who have recently become homeless, and, ensure Seattle renters are aware of these programs. We should have eviction case managers stationed at court and coordinating with tenants and their attorneys to quickly connect those at risk of eviction to financial and housing service providers. We should try again to get authorization from the state for an affordable housing preservation property tax exemption (like the MFTE, but for existing housing) that could help mitigate the risk of displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods.
I strongly believe that we should continue to reform our eviction procedures and strengthen tenant protections so that people have the time they need to recover from a temporary financial hardship or setback without it costing them their home or credit. We should prohibit landlords from initiating an eviction over a small amount of unpaid rent; prohibit landlords from assessing unreasonable late fees and penalties; prohibit landlords from using tenant payments to cover those fees and penalties first, rather than the rent owed; and allow judges the discretion to rule that evicted tenants do not have to pay their landlord’s lawyer and court costs. For residents on 12 month leases, landlords do not need cause to not renew a lease — something I know Councilmember Herbold is working on, and I would like to learn more about this well. We also must ensure that landlords fully understand these regulations, and view the city as a helpful resource to assist them from avoiding eviction procedures in the first place.
Michael George (District 7)
We need to divert far more resources to rental assistance as well as creating an emergency resource pool for people who are on the verge of being evicted.
Andrew Lewis (District 7)
I support a robust rent stabilization fund to make sure nobody who is indigent faces eviction over small sums in controversy. Moreover, I support a robust commitment to maintain existing affordable housing where possible, even on sites where we could get a greater density of units in the alternative.
Jim Pugel (District 7)
Displacement, gentrification, and eviction are all sides of the same coin when it comes to discrimination in housing. And that discrimination can really only be enforced when the Office of Housing, Civil Rights and the police conduct joint operations that will stand up in court showing that there is discrimination. This comes down to working together and building partnerships between community activists, developers, landlords, and our government — a co-operation that has been too easily neglected by the current City Council. Evictions that disproportionately affect people of color and poor people can be greatly reduced by assisting those who are behind in rent or utility payments with vouchers and then assisting those folks with case management to get them back on solid financial ground (this also needs to be a major aspect of preventing increased homelessness).
As a City Councilmember I would support initiatives including rental assistance, utility vouchers, and other low-cost financial support that will prevent individuals and families from becoming evicted or otherwise homeless in the first place. These folks may also need to be connected with other existing supportive programs to help them manage their re-housing. The Downtown Emergency Service Center and other private groups who are doing the right work without costing the taxpayer are setting the example, and city programs need to meet similar standards. Being able to avoid homelessness and eviction in the first place would be the goal of these initiatives.
The Urbanist was founded in 2014 to examine and influence urban policies. We believe cities provide unique opportunities for addressing many of the most challenging social, environmental, and economic problems. We serve as a resource for promoting urbanism, increasing political participation, and improving the places we live. The Elections Committee consists of community volunteers and staff members of The Urbanist and is a standing body representing the political values of our organization.