SEATTLE – Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle) and Tammy Morales (District 2, South Seattle and the Chinatown / International District) reacted to Mayor Bruce Harrell’s veto today of their legislation to collect data about rental rates in the City of Seattle.
“I am deeply disappointed our solution to collect housing data helpful for preventing displacement of economically vulnerable people was not signed into law. Similar laws to collect rental housing data are already in place throughout the nation, so the veto means Seattle is still behind the times,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen. “The amendments made to our legislation already addressed concerns about timing, budget, and implementation. Rejecting this law seems to be a victory for landlords unwilling to share data and a loss for those seeking data to make informed decisions on preserving and expanding affordable housing in our city.”
“Councilmember Pedersen and I worked together on this bill because we understand that the City needs solid data to help us make smart policy decisions. The fact of the matter is that we have no reliable source of data on average rents, rent increases, vacancy rates, or year-over-year trends in these areas,” said Councilmember Tammy J. Morales. “Vetoing this bill means relying on a private for-profit firm like the now-shuttered Dupre + Scott. That option, which currently doesn’t even exist, would provide us with incomplete, voluntary data that would cost money every time we seek it. This veto sends the message that we should make decisions in a vacuum, rather than make data-driven decisions and frankly I find that troubling.”
Mayor Harrell vetoed Council Bill 120325 adopted by the City Council on May 31, 2022. The legislation adds reporting requirements related to rent and rental housing information, like prices and square footage, to the existing Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance. The information would be submitted to a research university for analysis.
If the Mayor had allowed the bill to become law, Seattle would have efficiently filled the longstanding gap in rental housing data needed for better-informed policymaking about affordable housing. Seattle’s Rental Housing Registration & Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) adopted several years ago already requires landlords to submit a list of their rental units and this bill would simply have property owners include that list along with rental rates and square footage of each unit to a research university to compile and analyze this important data. No personal information would be provided, the executive departments would determine when to start the process, and the requirement would have sunset in December 2025.
For the past four years our city government has lacked the level of detail needed to understand many details about Seattle’s housing inventory, including the extent of affordable housing that is not subsidized, but still has below market rents usually because that housing stock is older, what some refer to as “naturally occurring affordable housing.” This legislation follows through with Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent (OPCD-004-A-001) Council adopted in November 2020 and the intent to mitigate for displacement impacts expressed in Resolution 31870.
The July 2019 report prepared for the City’s Office of Planning and Community Development by the Urban Displacement Project, University of California, titled “Heightened Displacement Risk Indicators for the City of Seattle’s Equitable Development Monitoring Program,” states that “a more granular and localized” data set is needed to “best meet the City’s racial equity goals. The Seattle Market Rate Housing Needs And Supply Analysis prepared for the City in 2021 states, “Displacement can result from economic pressures (such as rising rents or loss of income), demolition of rental housing for redevelopment, eviction, foreclosure, or loss of community anchors that tie residents to a place.”
Timely rental rate and location data for Seattle’s existing supply of rental housing will be vital when updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan and making significant land use policy and zoning changes in the future. Without this legislation, it is unclear how the executive departments will obtain the detailed data needed for policymakers.
According to Article IV, Section 12 of the Seattle City Charter, the City Council is required to vote on whether to override or sustain the Mayor’s veto within 30 days. An override requires six votes.
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