Mayor Ed Murray: rent control is not the answer

SEATTLE — As Mayor Ed Murray’s housing affordability task force works on how to create 50,000 new units in the next decade, Murray told KIRO 7 he does not believe rent control is the answer.

The effort to bring in new housing is to add supply to the high demand and provide more housing at affordable rates for low- to middle-income families.

“My father had a working-class job, we lived in West Seattle, my parents owned a home with seven kids. That would be impossible today,” Murray said.

That sentiment is echoed by tenants throughout the city, who say their rent increases are far outpacing the increase in wages.

New data from AXIOMetrics Inc. showed steep rent growth in Redmond, where rents are 9.6 percent higher than they were one year ago.

Rents in Bothell and Woodinville increased 8.9 percent since last year; they were up 7.6 percent in Bellevue and Issaquah and 7 percent in Kent.

Downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and Queen Anne saw a 5.9 percent increase, while North Seattle and Northgate saw a 4.8 percent increase.

Many tenants feel Seattle should implement rent control, which is currently not allowed under state law.

Hundreds of people packed a City Council forum Thursday night to express their support for it.

Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata said they would like to see the state lift the ban on rent control so voters can at least discuss the option.

But Murray, who said he proposed rent control 18 years ago when he was part of the state legislature, is now turning away from it.

“I know it’s possible to get difficult things done, but rent control was one that never even got out of hearing, much less out of committee, and that’s when the Democrats controlled it. I need to get affordable housing in Seattle immediately,” Murray said.

He also said rent control in other cities has not proven to benefit low-income families.

But Sawant told KIRO 7, “It provided a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of people who would otherwise be homeless.”

She said rent control will work better if it is implemented across the board and not just for a subsection of housing.

Sawant said it’s a matter of political will to push rent control through the state legislature. She said she’s trying to build a ground movement to support it, starting with a rally at the City Hall plaza on 4th Avenue on May 18 at 1 p.m.

Sawant said the city also needs to consider making use of city-owned property.

Murray said he would like his housing task force to consider strategic zoning, incentives, public dollars like the housing levy, and the role of nonprofits.

“I think it’s going to take something from everybody to get to affordable housing. It’s not just going to be one lever,” Murray said.