Thu. Jun 8th, 2023

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City Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (l) and Sara Nelson (r)

By Erica C. Barnett

When City Councilmember Alex Pedersen proposed legislation that would involve landlords to report primary information and facts about their rental units, these types of as the dimension of each unit they own and how a lot it rents for, two times a year, his intent wasn’t to make it more difficult for smaller landlords to stay in company.

In actuality, a single of the objectives of the proposal was to offer facts to demonstrate the worth of protecting so-identified as “naturally developing reasonably priced housing”—private, nonsubsidized flats that rent under current market rate—against improvement, by means of restrictions on density in places that may usually be redeveloped into higher-rise apartments.

So it was to some degree astonishing when, earlier this thirty day period, Pedersen’s frequent ally Sara Nelson accused him of seeking to impose onerous restrictions that would “burden modest landlords” who are “really struggling to offer with the impacts of the pandemic on their firms.” Comparing housing to shopper goods, Nelson claimed the laws would force landlords to divulge “proprietary” information and facts that other types of firms never have to disclose.

“We really do not inquire other compact business enterprise proprietors for this type of thorough details,” Nelson mentioned all through a Might 20 conference of the council’s renter’s rights committee. “For instance, we really don’t request all produce distributors to post the sorts of greens they promote and the selling prices they demand.” (In fact, we do, and on a a lot larger scale.)

Pedersen, seeming a bit startled by the analogy, pointed out that “the latest price ranges of merchandise are publicly accessible, whereas we don’t know what the recent agreement rents are for an condominium project.”

“The problem right here is that the price tag of housing is not acknowledged,” added committee chair Kshama Sawant, who supports Pedersen’s legislation. “I really do not fully grasp how it is a stress to disclose the sum of rent you charge—it looks to be the most standard type of details that landlords ought to be needed to share.”

In reaction, Nelson reported folks can discover out what rents landlords are charging, “kind of, when you’re wanting for models,” and that if the metropolis would like to know far more about rents they should hire a contractor to do a research. Then she mentioned supporters of the laws really should be trustworthy and accept that “this facts is likely to be utilized for other political purposes, these kinds of as hire manage.”

Sawant, a socialist, supports lease regulate Pedersen, a former aide to onetime Town Council member Tim Burgess, does not.

Prior to 2017, the personal organization Dupre + Scott issued comprehensive, educational reports about rents and rental developments, but considering the fact that they shut, the metropolis has had to rely on higher-stage Census information to retain tabs on rental information, including residential displacement rates. (In distinction, housing obtain selling prices are monitored by the Northwest Several Listing Support, which consistently challenges comprehensive, community-amount reviews.)

As we noted in March, Pedersen has argued that figuring out additional about the rents landlords demand for many apartment dimensions will assistance tell the 2024 update of Seattle’s comprehensive prepare, the doc that governs regulations all over land use and advancement in the town. “We actually want to do much more to prevent displacement, reduce economic displacement of existing residents, and we will need to fully grasp in which this beneath marketplace housing exists,” Pedersen claimed

The committee voted 3-2 to go the legislation ahead to the whole council, which will consider it up on Tuesday Council President Debora Juarez joined Nelson in voting “no,”