Advocates for renters' rights say the state faces a renting crisis—and they’re calling on state and local officials to help tenants facing evictions.
Social justice nonprofit Washington Community Action Network (CAN) on Monday published a survey of more than 800 tenants (most from Western Washington) on their experiences with rental housing.
Of the respondents, 16 percent have been evicted—a number far higher than the national eviction rate, 2.3 percent, last estimated in 2016 by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab.
The new study follows up on a September report by the Seattle Women’s Commission and Housing Justice Project, which concluded that the city’s current policies trigger mass evictions of low-income tenants.
While the vast majority of the respondents—about 93 percent—were living in Western Washington, CAN organizer Xochitl Maykovich said she hears similar stories from renters all across the state.
“As someone who grew up in a rural part of the country,” Maykovich told PubliCola, “I understand that when it comes to economic issues for the lowest end, lowest-income folks, they’re pretty similar regardless of where you live if you don’t have enough money to meet your basic needs.”
The survey found Washington tenants face other challenges, too. More than half of CAN survey respondents (57 percent) reported living in substandard conditions, one in five had moved in the last year, and 55 percent said eviction and credit checks were a barrier to them relocating.
More protections for tenants are likely underway in Seattle. The city council is expected to vote on a resolution Monday that would lay out plans to investigate eviction causes and solutions, an effort sparked by council member Lisa Herbold after the Seattle Women’s Commission report.
But as the 2019 legislative session gets started, Maykovich is also advocating for reform at the state level. Lawmakers are already considering a number of bills that would address rental housing and eviction.
Sponsored by state senator Patty Kuderer, a Bellevue Democrat, Senate Bill 5600 would further protect renters with more regulations—like requiring landlords to provide those facing evictions with written notice of legal resources available to them and 60 days written notice before raising the rent.
And House Bill 1453, sponsored by Seattle’s Nicole Macri, similarly would require landlords to provide tenants facing eviction clear, plain-language explanations of how to navigate the legal aspects of their situation and direct them to free or cheap resources.
For Maykovich, extending tenants' rights reform beyond the state’s urban corridors is critical. (The Seattle Women’s Commission report found nearly half of evicted Seattleites don’t remain in the city.)
“Look, people from this town I literally haven’t heard of said they’re having the same problems that they had in Seattle,” Maykovich told PubliCola.