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Letter to Community & King County Council in support of Just Cause Eviction

Dear housing justice activists,

Congratulations to King County renters Mergitu Argo, Mouhamed Tall, Modou Ndiaye, and Lenh Vong, who successfully fought off No-Cause Evictions from their landlord last month! We organized together – tenants, the Tenants Union of Washington State, the Seattle/King County NAACP, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, my City Council Office, Be:Seattle, Washington State Poor People’s Campaign, Bethany United Church of Christ, and many community members.

We held a press conference, and my Council Office spearheaded a letter from 30 community leaders demanding that the landlord rescind the eviction notices. 

The landlord backed off. Together, we demonstrated that when tenants fight back, unite, and organize, and when we have elected representatives standing unambiguously with the marginalized, we can win!

Following the tenants’ victory, my Council Office, along with our community allies, many of whom are here today, called for the King County Council to adopt a law protecting tenants in unincorporated regions of the county from no-cause eviction. To date, Seattle is the only city in Washington state where renters have just cause protections.

We’re very happy to see the King County Council now take up the call for an ordinance to protect tenants in unincorporated King County from no-cause evictions. I urge the County Council to join me in calling on other municipalities in the county to also adopt strong just-cause eviction standards.

My Council Office also would like to ensure that we strengthen Seattle’s Just Cause Ordinance. Our city’s current law does not protect all tenants, and we’re getting ready to bring legislation to close existing loopholes. 

Perhaps most importantly, our fight for just cause protections is closely linked with our larger struggle to address the acute affordable housing and homelessness crisis faced by our city and region. Currently, working families throughout King County are facing skyrocketing rents and are in critical need of affordable housing. Many have already been economically evicted from Seattle, some pushed into the devastating experience of homelessness. Especially impacted, as we know, are working people of color, immigrants, students, LGBTQ people, disabled community members, and retirees on fixed incomes. 

The current median rent in King County for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,495/month. That means, a household needs an income of $60,000/year in order to avoid being rent-burdened in a typical one-bedroom apartment. 

This is shameful. It’s a result of the absolute failure of the for-profit development market. We need a massive investment in social housing – publicly-owned, quality affordable housing – funded by taxing big business and the super-wealthy. I urge King County councilmembers to join our call to tax Amazon and other big businesses so that we can fund a massive program to construct quality, union-built homes.

And, we need to pass universal rent control, free of corporate loopholes, to stop the corporate landlords from exploiting on tenants.

In just the last 3 months, our office, working with the Tenants Union, Be:Seattle, labor unions, church groups, and others, have collected more than 10,000 signatures from residents demanding rent control! Join me at the September 17th Renters Rights Committee of the City Council, where we will discuss the elements of a draft legislation for universal rent control, free of corporate loopholes. We’re focused in Seattle for now, but urge you to join us so we can spread the movement throughout our county, and make King County a place that is affordable for all.

In solidarity,

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Councilmember Kshama Sawant

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