On Monday, October 1, the Seattle City Council will cast the final vote on Council Bill 117569, rental housing registration and inspection legislation, a program that I have been working since early 2010, and before that since 2006 to get state authorization for such a program.
In June 2010, the Council passed Ordinance 123311, creating a rental housing registration and inspection program. At the same time, the Council also adopted Resolution 31221, requesting that the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) convene a stakeholder group and report back with recommendations for implementing the rental housing registration and inspection program. The Stakeholder Group met 14 times between December, 2010 and January, 2012, resulting in a series of recommendations on the scope of a rental housing program. The current legislation passed out of the City Council’s Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee on September 26, 2012 with a vote 4-0 after eight committee meetings in 2012 alone.
In their last assessment of housing quality in Seattle, a survey showed that about 10 percent of rental units in Seattle have severe to moderate problems. The Department of Planning and Development gets about 500 complaints a year about rental housing conditions. If there are about 147,000 rental units and 10%, or 14,700 have problems, then that means only about 3.5% of the folks living in the worst housing are using DPD’s complaint-based code enforcement system. For this reason, I’m pleased that the Council was able to agree to knit together an approach of making safe the housing that we know now is not safe and inspecting – over the next 10 years – the rest of the city’s rental housing. In this way we will significantly improve the condition of unsafe rental housing.
For a summary of elements of the program, visit http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Compliance/RentalHousing/Overview/default.asp. For more resources for tenants see the Tenants Union.