Seattle council may expand eviction defense

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Advocates for renters gathered at the King County Courthouse, where eviction cases are heard.

They fear an explosion of homelessness when the Seattle and statewide bans on evictions expire in six weeks on June 30.

Gina Owens has been homeless and doesn’t want anyone else to go through it.

“No, I don’t want that. I didn’t like the way it felt for me,” she said.

So, they are supporting the proposal from Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales to allow people who’ve suffered financial losses due to the pandemic to use that fact in court as a defense against eviction.

“These are our essential workers that we’re talking about, the folks that have kept our city running for the last year,” she said.

But what would passing the proposal mean for landlords? Jim Henderson of Landlord Solutions represents them. “90 cents of every dollar that they receive in rent goes toward an expense to the property. The largest expense would be the mortgage. And then the second-largest expense is property taxes,” he said.

Councilmember Morales says at least $170 million in COVID rental assistance is already slated to help landlords.

“There is rental assistance available and it goes to the landlords, but landlords have to seek it out,” Henderson said, “Why do we need legislation to resolve this issue if rental assistance is coming?”

There is fear over the consequences if assistance and protection don’t come very soon.

“Are they going to be out on the streets?” Gina Owens said.