SEATTLE - High rent costs in Seattle make the city unaffordable for many people searching for housing, according to City Council Member Kshama Sawant.
Sawant has responded to the city's housing crisis with a rent control plan that would tie increased rents to the rate of inflation. Part of the plan says rent control would protect renters from displacement and rebuild communities.
Marilyn Yim said she has seen the market change drastically over her 16 years as a small landlord of a triplex.
“Because the housing crisis has been so acute, our tenants have actually stayed with us longer because it’s a good situation for them and for us,” said Yim.
Yim said her tenure as a landlord would be at risk due to the rent control proposal. Yim said the bill would make it too expensive for her to pay for increasing maintenance and utility costs, ultimately affecting her livelihood.
“We’re really considering whether we need to make a big change. If we want to stay in the market, offering a long-term rental or if we need to do a short-term model. Or even longer-term, do we want to stay living in the city in a triplex? Maybe we need to just sell and move out,” said Yim.
Logan Bowers, who failed in his bid to challenge Sawant in the primary election, said he rented housing all of his adult life. His latest home was a duplex rental in the city. He said the idea would also put his housing at risk.
“It shifts the owner to be motivated to sell that for owner-occupied housing and then my wife and I are out scrambling for a housing unit. So, for me personally, it fills me with a lot of fear that I won’t be able to live where we live today,” said Bowers.
Though Bowers agreed the city is lacking affordable housing, he said Sawant’s idea is not the answer.
“As long as we have a severe housing shortage in the city, rent control is only a way to change who gets squeezed out. But we’re still squeezing our marginalized and vulnerable people by the thousands,” said Bowers.
Q13 News reached out to Sawant for comment on concerns over the proposal, but have not heard back.
Yim said she just wanted to continue as a landlord but feared if the city moved forward with the plan it would put her out of business.
“We have a housing crisis right now, we have an affordability crisis and we really need to have all these types of housing to provide places for people of all incomes to live, for people of different family sizes and family structures,” said Yim.
The proposal was one of Sawant’s top priorities during her campaign for reelection. The state has not lifted its ban on rent control passed back in 1981. So, even if Sawant’s proposal was approved, it wouldn’t go into effect until state legislation changed.