Renters Commission proposal moves forward

This morning, the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee voted to recommend passage of a bill creating a new Seattle Renters Commission.

The bill, announced a few weeks back, has received little pushback other than a few grumbles that landlords also need more representation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54 percent of Seattle households are renter households, 48 percent of the city’s population lives in renter households, and in some neighborhoods as much as 80 percent of the households are renters.

Here’s my previous writeup of the proposal. The Council substituted an updated version of the bill today with only minor changes.

In discussion, Council member Tim Burgess, chair of the committee, noted that he believes the commission will only be successful if it also reaches out to landlords for substantive discussions. But he hopes that the Commission becomes a forum and a megaphone for renters’ view on issues beyond simply tenancy, including transportation, parks and open space, and public safety.

The Council members present (Burgess, Johnson and Herbold) voted unanimously to pass it out of committee so the full Council can vote on its final adoption next Monday.

Of note: Council member Sawant, who has championed tenants’ rights over the past two years and continues to advocate for components of a “tenant’s bill of rights,” was absent from both committee discussions on the Renters Commission. She has used the issue of tenant rights on several occasions to criticize her colleagues as “corporate Democrats” and to question their commitment to ordinary workers. Assuming the Renters Commission becomes a reality next week, it will be interesting to see whether Sawant embraces it — and whether it embraces her back. As for her colleagues, they may be hoping that the new commission becomes an alternative to Sawant as proxy for renters’ interests, and one that they can work with more easily.

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