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Councilmember Sawant to Governor Inslee: Ban All Rent Increases in 2020

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), sent a letter  to Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday (March 26) outlining the need for statewide rent control (rent freeze) through the rest of this year, as well as suspension of rent, mortgage, and utility payments during the Coronavirus crisis.  

In her letter, Sawant cites calls received by the Tenants Union of Washington State and at her Council office, from tenants reporting having received rent increase notices from  landlords during a time of “absolute crisis.”

Supporting Sawant’s call for a statewide rent freeze, Tenants Union executive director Violet Lavatai said, “”We’re getting calls on our hotline about rent increases during this time of absolute crisis for many families. This really says something about landlords who think this is the time to jump on profits. Even before the coronavirus, we needed statewide rent control to defend our homes against corporate greed. Renters need Rent Control Now.”

From the letter:

 “…As vulnerable renters in Seattle and Washington state struggle to cope with the COVID19 pandemic, many are starting to receive notices for rent increases from their corporate landlords … I am writing to urge you to immediately institute a statewide rent freeze through the end of the year (to be extended for longer if the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis continues in 2021). Concretely, you should use your executive powers to protect tenants by prohibiting rent increases both for month to month tenants in lease renewals and new leases.

“…The reprehensible 40-year-old statewide ban on any city or town (RCW 35.21.830) enacting rent control as allowed the cost of housing to balloon out of control in Seattle and statewide…During this pandemic, the consequences of unaffordable rent increases will be completely devastating. In the absence of guaranteed paid leave or any universal basic income, workers ordered to “shelter in place” must survive on a fraction of their usual pay while on unemployment insurance, and that is if they are lucky enough to qualify for those benefits. Beyond the immediate health impacts and loss of life from COVID19, it is becoming increasingly clear that the economy is headed for a deep recession. The Federal Reserve is predicting a second-quarter unemployment rate of 30 percent. 

“…Elected officials have a moral and political duty to ensure the burden of this serious crisis does not land on the same working people, renters, and marginalized communities who bear the brunt in the ‘normal’ periods of capitalism … I urge you to immediately enact a rent freeze through the rest of 2020. Additionally, I urge you to  suspend all rent, mortgage, and utility payments for as long as the pandemic lasts. This is the least you can do for working people, while big banks and corporations get bailed out by the Trump administration.”

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