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Seattle Renters’ Commission passes City Council

The panel will advise the City Council on issues that matter to renters

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 Monday afternoon, an ordinance to create a Seattle Renters’ Commission passed the Seattle City Council.

The 15-member, volunteer commission will advise the City Council on matters related to housing, transportation, and anything else related to neighborhoods, affordability, and life in Seattle.

Around half of people living in Seattle are renters. The ordinance passed today would ensure that half of the city has a codified presence at City Hall.

The measure calls for committee representation for renters who have experienced homelessness, as well as other “varied renter perspectives.” This includes people are—or organizations that work with people who are—LGBTQ, immigrants, renters with felony records, or paying rent with assistance.

Only renters are eligible to serve on the panel.

“This is actually just telling rentals that your voice and your life matters,” said Capitol Hill Community Council President Zachary DeWolf, one of the organizers behind the commission, in a Seattle Channel City Inside/Out segment late last week.

Sean Martin, External Affairs Director for the Rental Housing Association of Washington, took a different take on the same panel: They want a seat at that table.

“We want to have our opinions and our voices brought into the conversation early and try to work some things out that way,” said Martin, “versus ending up on the legislative side of things all the time.”

“I don’t think there’s a shortage of renter influence,” Martin continued.

“Some suggest this is an anti-landlord move. This is not the case,” said Council Member Tim Burgess, introducing the bill to Council.

In a Seattle Channel poll, more than 75 percent said they’d support the commission.

After the ordinance is signed by the Mayor, an application window will open for members of the public that would like to serve on the commission, as with other Council commissions. The commission could start meeting as soon as late spring.