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Sawant: Renters and working people cannot rely on Democratic Party Politicians, we only win when we fight back

‘Our movement’s sustained pressure forced Mayor Durkan to extend the eviction moratorium for renters and struggling small businesses. Similarly, we will have to fight hard to force the City Council to pass Right to Counsel without loopholes.’

 Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, released the following statement today in response to Mayor Durkan’s decision to extend the current eviction moratorium to June 30, and the City Council’s decision to delay the vote on the Right to Counsel for renters facing eviction to March 29:

“Just 44 minutes before the City Council was scheduled to take up our movement’s resolution demanding the Mayor and Governor extend the eviction moratorium through 2021, the Mayor issued a press release announcing another three-month extension, through June 30, 2021.

“Our movement’s sustained pressure forced Mayor Durkan to extend the eviction moratorium for renters and struggling small businesses. Similarly, we will have to fight hard to force the City Council to pass Right to Counsel without loopholes.

“We did not win a full year extension of protections against eviction, as our movement has demanded. But in conceding to a three-month extension of tenant protections, she did something that big business and the landlord lobby bitterly fought against.

“We won because we stuck together and made bold demands. And make no mistake, we’re not done. We’re going to keep fighting for the full-year extension, because that’s what working people need.

“Our resolution will come up before the City Council again on June 7 if the Mayor hasn’t agreed to further extensions of tenant protections by then. So we will have to keep fighting!” Sawant said.

Speaking about the Council’s vote postponement on Right to Counsel legislation, Sawant noted, “Today’s decision by the Democrats on the City Council to delay, for two weeks, consideration of our movement’s bill providing tenants facing eviction with the right to legal representation was a clear signal that the renters rights movement will have to fight even harder in the coming weeks. 

The Democratic Councilmembers who voted for the delay barely concealed their intentions behind the delay: attempt to introduce insidious loopholes like ‘means testing,’ which have been found to be extremely detrimental to the interests of the most vulnerable.

“This is shameful and disingenuous, because behind all the claims about wanting to ‘get it right,’ Democrats are doing exactly what the corporate landlord lobby wants. ‘Means-testing’  – forcing tenants to prove they are low-income before they can get legal representation – is a cruel way to create barriers toward getting tenants the legal representation they need and deserve. 

“The reality is, people who find themselves in eviction court are overwhelmingly low income. Rich or even reasonably well-off people are not getting evicted from their apartments, for the simple reason that they have other options to make sure their rent gets paid. San Francisco, which has no ‘means testing’ in their Right to Counsel legislation, studied the incomes of people in eviction court and found well over 90% were low or moderate income.

Today’s delay shows why our movement is going to have to fight even harder over the next two weeks to demand that the full Council pass our Right to Counsel legislation with no loopholes, and no watering down.”

Sawant credited community members and organizations with taking action to produce today’s eviction moratorium extension concession by Mayor Durkan, including:

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