Monday, January 10, 2022
Tenants at Rainier Court, a low-income apartment complex in South Seattle owned by SouthEast Effective Development (SEED) continue to suffer from deplorable living conditions, negligent management, and increases to their cost of living – an untenable and desperate situation, especially with the majority of tenants living on fixed incomes.
For years, the tenants – mostly Black seniors and immigrant families of color – have repeatedly complained about the dilapidated building, non-functioning heating, broken appliances, rampant mold, cockroaches, and other serious safety concerns. Since SEED hired the for-profit company COAST as building management, conditions have only worsened. For weeks, tenants have informed management that the parking garage door does not close property and puts their cars at great risk of break ins. Their concerns are heightened by the lack of building security, only one security guard to monitor around 550 units across four buildings, and a recent break-in to management’s office in one of the buildings where tenant’s rent checks are kept. Last Thursday, shortly after informing my staff of the garage door issue, a tenant’s vehicle was stolen out of the garage. This theft is an enormous burden on this senior living on fixed income who relies on his car to make regular, urgent trips to the hospital. Additionally, his son needs the car to make it to his job. This theft would very likely not have happened had management swiftly responded to the multiple work orders submitted about the faulty door.
As tenants know, this was not a one-off incident, but is scandalously the norm at Rainier Court. SEED, a non-profit who claims to provide decent affordable housing for seniors and low-income families, are in fact operating like slumlords. The conditions in the complex are appalling. Thirty-nine housing code complaints were filed by the tenants to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection just in October of last year!
Tenants at Rainier Court are tired of being ignored and taken advantage of, not only from the huge backlog of maintenance issues, unresponsive management, and safety concerns, but last year, SEED had the nerve to raise the rents!
My office is proud to have fought alongside the senior and low-income tenants to win a major victory of having 2021 rent increases rescinded! This victory was only possible through the willingness of dozens of tenants to fight back, and with the support of my office, build enough pressure to force SEED to concede. Our office organized press conferences, released a tenant petition, and helped to put on organizing meetings where we discussed our progress and collectively decided next steps. It was clear from the beginning that the tenants’ power lay in their organization and numbers. We launched a systematic doorknocking effort to make sure everyone could sign the petition, get involved, and know they have a voice through collective organizing. Tenants built solidarity and overcame the divide and conquer tactics SEED/COAST employed to try and undermine the struggle. The rent rescindment was a clear victory but it’s by no means the end of the struggle. We have to keep fighting to make sure SEED publicly promises no rent increases through 2022, fix all the housing code violations, for the Seattle City Council to increase the Amazon tax to fund affordable housing and to pass urgently needed Rent Control with no corporate loopholes put forward by my office. The gruesome Bronx and Philadelphia tragedies remind us that people’s health and lives are at stake the longer the conditions continue to deteriorate