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Councilmember Sawant Credits Renter Rights Movement for Pushing Three Bills Through Council Committee, Over Resistance of Corporate Landlords

Full Council vote June 7; Sawant declares, ‘Today is an important step forward. Rank-and-file renters need to continue to fight to win these in City Council and to win our full Renters’ Bill of Rights, including rent control and canceling COVID debt’

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee, congratulated the renters rights movement, and especially rank-and-file renters, on pushing three bills through the Renters’ Rights Committee today that will bolster the rights of tenants throughout the city.

“Today’s bills put people before profits. They put the rights of renters above the interests of profit-seeking corporate landlords. They prioritize housing stability instead of racist gentrification,” Sawant said. “I especially want to congratulate the dozens of community members who spoke out in public comment against the pro-corporate landlord amendments that were introduced at the last minute earlier today. Thanks to their advocacy, each of these amendments, which would have been gifts to the landlord lobby, failed.”

The first bill, introduced by Councilmember Sawant, would ban the eviction of schoolchildren, their families, and educators during the school year.

The second bill, jointly introduced by Councilmember Sawant and Councilmember Tammy Morales (District 2, South Seattle and Chinatown/International District), and co-sponsored by Councilmember Andrew Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia) would bolster renter rights and reduce tenant displacement. It requires landlords to offer current renters a new lease before they look for a new renter, unless the landlord has a “just cause,” as defined in law, to not renew the lease.

The third bill, introduced by Councilmember Morales and co-sponsored by Sawant, gives tenants legal protection from eviction due to COVID-related rental debt.

Each bill passed 3-1, with Councilmembers Sawant, Morales, and Lewis voting in favor. The three bills will now go to the full City Council for final passage on June 7. At that meeting, the Council also will take up Councilmember Sawant’s resolution calling for Mayor Durkan and Governor Inslee to extend the current eviction moratoriums through at least the end of 2021.

“Today, with these bills, we will stabilize housing by protecting schoolchildren, their families, and educators from school-year evictions, by ensuring that people in term leases have a fair opportunity to renew their leases and stay in their homes, and that renters who have lost income due to COVID won’t find themselves evicted,” Sawant said. 

The renters rights movement needs to continue to fight for these bills, and also our entire Renters’ Bill of Rights,” Sawant said. “We need to ban the latest form of legalized discrimination by barring landlords from using credit checks in rental applications. We need to prohibit onerous, undemocratic, or abusive lease terms. We need to allow rental history screenings to be transferable from one application to the next. We need to extend relocation assistance to people ‘economically evicted’ by rent increases. We need to protect renters from default evictions, which is a main tool that landlords use to evict tenants. We need to cancel rental, mortgage and utility debt for people who have lost income due to COVID. And we need to build our movement to win rent control, both for residential tenants and also for struggling small businesses.”

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