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Seattle Renters’ Commission ordinance passes City Council committee

Renters are one step closer to getting a stronger voice at City Hall

An apartment building with outside entrances to the units and colorful doors—red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Jesse Noone/Flickr

In a unanimous vote Wednesday morning, an ordinance to create a Seattle Renters’ Commission passed a Seattle City Council committee. The measure will move to the full Seattle Council on Monday for a likely vote.

Seattle City Council Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee advanced the proposal introduced by Seattle City Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Lisa Herbold, and Mike O’Brien earlier this month.

The commission would advise the City Council on matters related to housing, transportation, and anything else related to neighborhoods and affordability. The current version of the measure calls for specific, targeted outreach to renters who have experienced homelessness.

“They’re also empowered to comment on issues beyond [landlord and tenant issues],” said Burgess, whether that’s transportation or green spaces.

A separate measure might come forward in the future to address small business owners who pay rent on commercial spaces.

“That’s another group in our city I want to make sure City Hall is paying attention to,” said Burgess.

Two representatives from the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative spoke in favor of the ordinance—one said it would bring a “more diverse perspective” from the intersection renters’ lives and identities.

“If you have civically engaged renters.... you have better tenants” said Whitney Rearick, a renter who formerly worked at the Low Income Housing Institute, said during public comment. “I think [landlords opposed to the policy] are acting against their own best interest.”

Nobody commented against the ordinance during committee.

If the ordinance passes full council—as Council Member Burgess said that he believes it will—an application window will open for members of the public that would like to serve on the commission, as with other Council commissions.