Seattle’s affordable housing crisis is among the worst in the entire country. 1 in 10 units sit vacant, while working people, small businesses, people of color, and LGBTQ people are being rapidly gentrified out of our city. With rent averaging over two thousand dollars a month, Seattle urgently needs rent control to stop Seattle’s out-of-control rent hikes!
That’s why this week, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant introduced two measures: 1) A comprehensive, citywide rent control ordinance without corporate loopholes; and 2) An economic evictions assistance ordinance, which is needed to immediately protect tenants against huge rent increases.
The movement for rent control is growing across the country. Earlier this year, working people and tenant’s rights activists won a major victory in Oregon, becoming the first state in the country to enact statewide rent control, and a rent control bill is now moving forward in Colorado. Under Oregon’s new law, it’s now illegal for a landlord to increase a tenant’s rent by more than 7% a year. The law also sets limits on how much rent can be increased between leases, removing the incentive to evict tenants in order to jack up rents.
This victory would not have been possible without tireless organizing from renters and tenant’s rights organizations, who have been fighting for rent control for years. It shows that when we fight, we can win.
Here in Seattle, and across the country, the for-profit housing market has failed us. Our city has been the national leader in the number of construction cranes three years running, yet sky-high housing costs and weak tenant’s rights laws have combined to lead to an epidemic of gentrification and evictions. On average, one of our neighbors in District 3 is evicted every other day.
In Washington state, rent control measures were blocked at the state legislature in response to grassroots tenant organizing in the 1980’s. The real estate lobby succeeded in passing a law in Olympia that banned cities like Seattle from doing anything to regulate skyrocketing rents.
But as Kshama said at this week’s press conference: “We have two choices. One, just sit on our hands and expect that some day, in the distant future, the Democratic establishment will gather the courage to break from the real estate lobby and finally stand with us. We’ve done that kind of waiting for 40 years. Or we can begin the fight here.”
Passing a comprehensive, citywide rent control ordinance in Seattle would create huge pressure for the state legislature to finally lift the undemocratic state ban on rent regulation. Democrats now control the State House, State Senate and governor’s mansion. There is no excuse for further inaction. The time to for rent control is now.
Just this week, news broke that Amazon has already dumped $200,000 to the Chamber of Commerce’s corporate PAC, CASE. The PAC now sits on a war chest of over $500,000. These big business interests have fought tooth-and-nail against all of our movements, from the $15 minimum wage to last year’s Tax Amazon struggle. We know that corporate interests like these and the real-estate lobby will spend big this year to try to defeat Kshama Sawant and our movement to make Seattle affordable for all.
Corporate politicians make lots of big promises to try to win votes, but you can’t serve two bosses: big business and working people. We can’t address rampant inequality without standing up to Amazon, which has paid no taxes for the past two years and is headed up by Jeff Bezos, the richest man in human history. And we can’t address Seattle’s out-of-control rent costs without standing up to the big landlords and wealthy developers who are raking in record profits.
We will only win rent control with your help. Please chip in today to build the movement to win.