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Councilmember Sawant Announces Plan to Introduce One-Year Eviction Moratorium Extension for Renters and Struggling Small Businesses

‘Mayor Durkan’s announcement of a 3-month extension to the eviction moratorium is a step forward, coming on the heels of renter organizing, but falls far short of what’s needed’

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee, issued this statement in response to Wednesday morning’s announcement by Mayor Durkan extending the current eviction moratorium by three months for tenants, small businesses, and non-profit organizations:

“On Wednesday morning, two days after my office submitted our community petition with more than 2,100 signatures demanding an extension of the eviction moratorium, Mayor Durkan has announced an extension. Durkan’s announcement comes on the heels of  renters and struggling small businesses getting organized and demanding action from the Mayor and Governor.

“In the space of just five days, over 2,100 signed our petition, with hundreds of people – renters, small business owners, and progressive small landlords – writing moving personal stories of why we urgently need an extension of protections for renters and struggling small businesses. In my op ed published by The Stranger last Friday, I noted that we cannot depend on the Democratic political establishment, but must build an independent, powerful renters rights movement and make bold demands. Yesterday’s concession by the Mayor is a step forward in the struggle for renter rights, and it belongs to everyone who signed our petition and spoke out demanding that the political establishment act.

While an important victory won because of renter organizing, the Mayor’s three-month extension of the eviction moratorium falls far short of what’s needed, given the dire situation facing our city’s renters. The COVID infection rate in the US is at its highest since the pandemic began. While crucial progress has been made with the beginning of vaccinations, the pandemic will clearly be with us throughout 2021, as will the deep economic crisis, which will outlast the public health crisis. Large numbers of renters and working-class homeowners, who were already living paycheck-to-paycheck, have been accumulating debt, following job and income losses. With debt piling up, an “avalanche” of evictions is anticipated nationwide. The mayor’s extension is so short that renters behind on their rent will be forced to live in fear for the next three months, with many facing the prospect of becoming homeless, and forced to organize yet again for a further extension. By comparison, the emergency policies to protect developers are scheduled to extend six months after whenever the emergency officially ends

When the City Council resumes meetings in January, my office will introduce legislation to extend the eviction moratorium through the end of 2021, as the renters’ movement has demanded and as the scale of the crisis requires. Our movement won a ban on winter evictions early this year. We then won the initial COVID eviction moratorium, and now the three-month moratorium extension. We need to build an even stronger movement early in 2021 to force the political establishment to extend the eviction moratorium through the end of the year.

The City Council Renters Rights Committee, which I chair, will conduct a public hearing in January on this legislation, and I urge community members to attend and speak out.

“We also know that extending eviction moratoriums alone will not be enough because they do not resolve the underlying renter debt crisis. We need to fight to cancel rents, mortgages, utility costs, and debt payments for renters, working-class homeowners, struggling small businesses, and small landlords who have lost income due to COVID and the economic recession – make Wall Street banks, corporate landlords, and big businesses pay for the crisis. My office is proud to be part of the statewide and national #CancelRent and #CancelMortgage movements, alongside grassroots community organizations like Be:Seattle and the Tenants Union.

“The question is clear: Who will pay for the twin crises of COVID and the capitalist recession—big business or working people? Corporations like Amazon and Microsoft have registered staggering profits during the pandemic, and major Seattle-area landlords like Essex Property Management and Equity Apartments have recorded hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Those two corporate landlords, national real estate companies who combined control about 20,000 apartments in the Seattle area, recently reported more than $1.1 billion in profits in just the first 9 months of this year. 

“On the other hand, tens of thousands of working people in Seattle have lost income, are in dire financial straits, are struggling to put food on the table, and are racking up debt they will never be able to pay back. We have to fight to ensure big businesses, Wall Street banks, corporate landlords and developers pay for the housing debt crisis, not working people who have struggled and suffered during COVID.”

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