‘A landlord being forced to rescind exploitative rent increases is a huge victory, and happens only when tenants get organized with a fighting strategy and community solidarity. But we cannot be complacent. NOW is the time to keep the pressure up to win our demands in FULL for ALL tenants.
Rainier Court tenants together with my office, Clergy, and community supporters will be marching to the SEED this Friday to demand: rescind rent increases, refund Oct-Nov rent increase payments, fix the housing code violations.’
SEATTLE – Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee, announced a partial – though tremendous – victory in the ongoing struggle of hundreds of tenants at Rainier Court in Mount Baker alongside her Council office, the Tenants Union, and Be:Seattle.
Rainier Court, a complex of four buildings (the Dakota, Columbia Gardens, Spokane, and Courtland Place) with well over 500 apartments, is owned by SEED (a non-profit that receives public funds), and is managed by for-profit property manager, COAST. Sawant’s office was contacted last month by a number of the tenants, after having struggled in vain for years to get SEED and COAST to address their concerns, and then receiving unjust rent increases.
Sawant said, “In a little over ten days of serious organizing with my office around a fighting strategy, Rainier Court tenants have wrested a partial but nonetheless phenomenal concession from SEED! SEED has announced that they have rescinded rent increases in the Dakota building.
“A landlord being forced to rescind exploitative rent increases is a huge victory, and happens only when tenants get organized with a fighting strategy and community solidarity,” Sawant continued. “But we cannot be complacent. NOW is the time to keep the pressure up to win our demands in FULL for ALL tenants: rescind rent increases, refund Oct-Nov rent increase payments, fix the housing code violations.
Sawant said, “The vast majority of the tenants are working-class, fixed-income seniors from the Black community and East African immigrant community members. Many face disabilities, and many are on federal Section 8 housing vouchers. For months and in some cases years, they have been contacting the landlord and the property manager about pervasive problems in the apartments, such lack of heating, mold, bed bug and cockroach infestation, hallways with accumulating garbage, the absence of internet access for low-income residents, broken stoves and refrigerators, non-functioning toilets, and leaking ceilings. On top, SEED had the shamelessness to increase their rents by an exploitative $100 or even more in some cases!
Sawant joined the tenants at an important rally Wednesday October 20th, covered in a KOMO story, and in articles by The Stranger and the Emerald. Then on Wednesday October 27th, Sawant hosted a press conference, where many tenants offered moving testimony about the deplorable living conditions they have faced for months and even years, and the outrageous rent increases on top of that. That same day, Sawant sent a public letter to SEED and COAST, demanding that they immediately rescind the rent increases and fix the numerous housing code violations that have led to deplorable living conditions.
Sawant’s office staff have talked to hundreds of tenants. Sawant held an organizing meeting Friday October 29th, with more than 75 tenants in attendance. Following that, tenants spoke eloquently at public comment during the Seattle City Council meeting on Monday this week.
Sawant said, “What does it mean to say Black Lives Matter when hundreds of Black and Brown working-class renters, low-income seniors in this case, can be forced to live in nightmarish conditions, then subjected to unjust rent increases en masse which will lead to continued displacement of our Black and Brown neighbors? Thousands of working-class renters face a similar predicament throughout the city. And tens of thousands are facing skyrocketing rents.
“Governor Inslee’s shameful decision to let the remaining parts of the statewide eviction moratorium expire over the weekend only adds to renters’ precarious circumstances.
“Seattle renters should remember our movement and our office succeeded in winning a 6-month continuation of the moratorium in Seattle after the statewide moratorium expired, and are therefore still largely protected. It shows that renters and working people getting organized and fighting back genuinely yields results. We will need this fighting approach to win tenant struggles like at Rainier Court, and to win strong rent control citywide.”