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Council Halts Rent Bidding Apps, City to Evaluate Impacts to Housing Access

Council adopted Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s first piece of Council-developed legislation by a vote of 8-0 today, putting a moratorium on “rent bidding” platforms in Seattle. This burgeoning new technology allows landlords to competitively auction rental housing units to the highest bidder via applications.  The “rent bidding” legislation gives Seattle the opportunity to understand the applications’ impacts prior to the technology permeating Seattle’s rental housing market. As noted by the Rental Housing Association, there are less than a dozen known properties listed with these applications, suggesting immediate changes for landlords will be minimal, while ensuring more damaging impacts on those seeking housing in Seattle are avoided.

Mosqueda’s legislation puts a one-year moratorium on the technology’s operation in Seattle while the City’s Office of Housing, in conjunction with Office of Civil Rights and Department of Construction and Inspections, evaluates the potential impacts of the rent auctioning applications, specifically how they abide by equitable access to housing laws. During the moratorium, the City will evaluate how the bidding platforms comply with the City’s fair access housing laws, including the “First in Time” law, which requires that landlords accept the first qualified applicant.

“Innovation in technology has been a key component of what makes Seattle such a great city, adding to our economic diversity. At the same time, we must have the opportunity to learn about new platforms, such as these ‘rent bidding’ platforms, and ensure that they live up to the equity and housing access values of our city,” said Councilmember Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide).

Councilmember Mosqueda developed the legislation after the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) approached her with concerns about access and equity, and asked that the City evaluate the potential impacts of rent bidding apps, and compliance with City laws.

Sorana Nance, ASUW Senate Speaker, said, “I’m glad that students have had an impact on the Seattle that we will be living in, especially at a time when our city is experiencing rapid change. My hope is that this legislation will help ensure equitable housing practices for Seattle residents now and in the future.”

Councilmember Mosqueda added, “I’m thankful to the ASUW students for approaching me, and appreciate Puget Sound Sage for illustrating the importance of pausing and evaluating the technology before we have unintended consequences.”

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