The initial election results for Seattle City Council races are in. Five incumbent candidates—including socialist Kshama Sawant—look like they are headed for the general elections. Sawant will face a showdown against Pamela Banks in the general.
A hot button issue among candidates has been whether or not to impose rent control policies in Seattle. As the primaries wrap-up, the Seattle Times’ editorial board decided to weigh in on the issue. The editorial warns candidates to stop talking about rent control—particularly a resolution sponsored by Councilmembers Sawant and Nick Licata—because “it is a failed policy in other cities, and it’s against state law.” The Seattle Times,
“The resolution includes statistics that are meant to be distressing, such as the fact that rents for one-bedroom apartments rose nearly 11 percent between 2010 and 2013. While that sounds like a lot, the three-year rise was during an economic recovery after a severe housing crash. Another statistic: Forty-five percent of renter households in Seattle pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities — sounds high, but it’s below the national average of 52 percent.
“What the resolution doesn’t address is how a rent-control policy in Seattle would work and not result in the same problems found in other cities.”
Rent control policies create a two-tiered market—a result of some apartments being subject to rent control based on where they are built. These policies “do not take into account the income or family size of the tenants.” The Seattle Times,
“If the goal is to help economically vulnerable residents, then rent control is the wrong tool. It comes with unintended consequences, such as landlords not maintaining or upgrading their properties because they can’t raise rents to recoup costs…
“The mayor and City Council should focus on more viable strategies that came out of the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee, such as offering landlords tax incentives to keep apartments affordable and building more subsidized housing for low-income residents…
“Figuring out how to implement those ideas would be a far better use of time than debating a failed policy that has little chance of solving the housing crunch.”
Another idea that would improve affordable housing in Seattle? Controlling unions who, out of spite, kill affordable housing plans after builders refuse to bend to their will.