Legislature will be asked to increase local government latitude regarding rent regulation

The Seattle City Council has voted to ask the state to give the city more flexibility when it comes to regulating rent. As the Seattle Times reports,

The Seattle City Council passed a resolution Monday directing city lobbyists in Olympia to ask the state Legislature for the authority to enact new laws related to rents.

But what the council approved by a vote of 8-1 wasn’t the much-discussed resolution proposed earlier this year by Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant, who have argued it may be appropriate for Seattle to adopt some form of rent control.

If not rent control, then what?

“Cities should be given as many tools as possible to create rent-restricted units,” Burgess said Monday, stressing that his resolution “does not take a position on rent control.”

So, it’s not clear, though some think that, while silent on rent control, the resolution implicitly keeps the issue in play. The Legislature, regardless, is unlikely to approve it in 2016. 

Last October the Washington Research Council pointed out that economists think rent control is a bad idea.

The WRC adds today,

Rent control, practically by definition, has a negative impact on the quality and quantity of housing supply. Even Burgess said that rent control is a “failed public policy.”

Publicola reports that the Seattle development community agrees the resolutions are bad policy

Ryan Bayne, a spokesman for the Coalition for Housing Solutions, a group that represents the chamber, realtors, builders, and land use attorneys, says: “It used to be that when the council would pass bad policy, it was at least popular with Seattle voters. Now, if you get a few loud folks with banners in the room, they’ll pass policy that is both counterproductive and unpopular with Seattle voters.”


The reference is to an earlier poll showing Seattle voters do not see rent control as a priority. It’s doubtful the Legislature will, either.