Lawmakers pressured to eliminate state ban on rent control

SEATTLE — The average rent in the Seattle-area has jumped 62 percent in the last seven years, according to a survey. The increases have been coming so fast that many renters can't keep up.

As Joselito Lopez described a $500 rent increase, a tear rolled down his cheek.

“We were doing our best always paying our rent on time, and it just kept on going up and up,” he said.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee listened as Mia Franklin said her rent jumped from $1,500 a month to $1,700 a month.

“It sure as hell doesn't feel like the American dream, it feels like an American nightmare,” she said.

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That why housing activists want lawmakers to repeal the 1981 state law that outlaws rent control. Instead, they want to let local governments like Seattle's decide for themselves.

“The housing crisis is getting worse for so many more people. Repeal this ban so we can pass real solutions on the local level,” said Xochitl Maykovich of the Washington Community Action Network.

However, landlords and developers point out that the new report says average Seattle-area rents have fallen by $50 a month. They say that's because the building boom in apartments has increased supply. They say allowing rent control will backfire.

“Rent control in a city discourages construction of new rental housing; it discourages maintenance of rental housing,” said Mike Ennis of the Association of Washington Business.

Olympia Republican Andrew Barkis says the state should not give Seattle the leeway to impose rent control.

"The problem is that when we let Seattle handle Seattle we're seeing that eventually come here."
Though Democrats have a majority in both houses, leaders have doubts that lifting the rent control ban could pass.

“Whether that has the votes, we're not sure at this point, but we have a lot of other proposal that would definitely address the affordable housing crisis,” said Speaker of the House Frank Chopp.