New Seattle mayor issues executive order about evictions, uncertainty during pandemic

New Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said he will issue an executive order instructing city departments to take immediate actions to limit the pandemic’s negative effect on people living in the city.

“As this rapid surge in cases driven by the omicron variant drives further pandemic uncertainty, keeping vulnerable people in their homes must be the immediate focus,” said Harrell.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Harrell said that due to the omicron variant, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Washington is higher than at any previous point in the pandemic.

The order will extend the city’s eviction moratorium 30 more days. This most recent moratorium is a supplement to existing ordinance 126705, passed by the City Council last year, which extends the moratorium for six more months until July.

That ordinance will take effect when Harrell’s moratorium expires on Feb. 14, keeping people from being evicted until August.

Harrell’s order will apply to residential, small business and commercial tenants who have experienced financial hardships during the pandemic.

Harrell’s extension also directs Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities to continue payment plan policies and stop utility shutoffs until April 15.

Booting of vehicles for unpaid parking tickets continues to be suspended until further notice. Temporary parking zones for hospital and human services staff are extended for 90 days.

Instructions issued by Harrell in the order include:

  • Forming a team to simplify obtaining and distributing support funds.
  • Creating an online portal to connect affected tenants and small landlords to resources.
  • Assessing unintended negative effects from the moratorium, such as domestic violence and property damage.
  • Developing an outreach and education plan for Seattle residents who are at risk of being evicted.
  • Creating an advisory group of tenant advocates and small landlords.
  • Reviewing the effect of utility relief policies and suspending utility shut offs, including the long-term effect on ratepayers.
  • Delivering resources to help with utility bills to tenants and small landlords.

“I am refusing to simply extend the moratorium and sit idly by as if our work is done – the City must go further to pursue the most effective methods of support for tenants and small landlords,” said Harrell. “In this executive order, I am directing city departments to use the next 30 days to urgently and comprehensively collect and analyze needed data around the pandemic’s effect on the housing crisis and impact of the eviction moratorium, improve accessibility and delivery of assistance resources, and prepare targeted outreach to tenants most at-risk of eviction.”