Earlier this month, Council Members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata introduced a resolution that would ask the state to lift its ban on rent control. Until now, it's been hard to figure out where the rest of the council—read: the more conservative majority—stands on asking the state to lift the ban.
There were some tea leaves to read, however.
Sally Bagshaw name-dropped Paul Krugman. Tom Rasmussen questioned whether it'll even have any effect on state lawmakers. And when I asked the office of new, temporary council member John Okamoto where he stood on the resolution, they sent me this: "The council member favors a comprehensive solution to affordable housing that takes a look at the many moving parts in whole, rather than in piecemeal." When I wrote back to point out that that doesn't actually answer the question, I received no response. Council Member Mike O'Brien, for his part, did respond with a real human answer: yes, he'll be supporting the resolution.
Others have stayed quiet. Council Members Tim Burgess, Jean Godden, and Bruce Harrell didn't answer two different requests from The Stranger about how they planned to vote on the resolution. (Though Harrell hinted earlier this month he was supportive of cities having more authority on issues like this.)
Now, however, we have an answer from those three—and it looks good for Sawant and Licata. Burgess is not supportive of asking the state to lift the ban on rent control, but Godden and Harrell are. That's according to their answers on this candidate questionnaire from the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, the political arm of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, which asked "Do you support asking the state legislature to remove the state ban on rent regulation?"
In response, Godden wrote, "Yes. I will advocate for local municipality jurisdiction over implementing rent regulation. I believe that Seattle should make the choice about rent control."
Harrell wrote, "Yes. Similar to other state restrictions prohibiting local control (i.e. gun laws), I support local control."
Here's how O'Brien explained his support: "I fully support removing the ban. The city needs more tools to help people stay in the housing they already have. I am undecided on the specifics of how we would proceed with various forms of rent stabilization, but the city council should have a robust public discussion about those policies."
Burgess answered "no," explaining that instead he favors expanding the multifamily tax exemption program, a tax break for developers who improve buildings in residential areas and set aside some units as affordable.
Bagshaw didn't actually answer the question (come on, Sally), but is clearly skeptical. She said she "would like to work with state and local leadership to positively impact the rental market by increasing supply and protecting tenants from unfair practices. Rent control is not enough." She then expressed support for 10 other policies including inclusionary zoning, impact fees, and whatever comes out of the mayor's housing affordability committee, HALA. (That group, by the way, is currently deadlocked over how to pay for its ideas.)
Barring some sort of technicality from the incumbents who said "yes"—something to the tune of "I support asking the state to lift the ban, but I have an issue with Licata's and Sawant's language"—that creates a majority of the city council in support of the resolution. Remember, the resolution doesn't give Seattle rent control; it simply asks the state legislature to do something that might someday allow Seattle to have rent control.
Here, again, is how it breaks down—this time in handy list form:
Licata (again, duh)
Even if all those shrugs turn into no votes, the tally is 5-4 in support.
In the meantime, Publicola has the results of a recent EMC poll, which found that potential voters support a "broad based approach" over rent control alone. Of course, that doesn't mean rent control isn't part of that "broad based approach," but it shows that voters realize that rent control isn't the only answer.
A couple other things from candidates' answers to the Housing Alliance Action Fund:
• On the rent control question, Sawant's most formidable election opponent Pamela Banks has said she doesn't support rent control. In this questionnaire, though, she supports asking the state to lift the ban. "Olympia shouldn’t make the decision on rent control in Seattle," she writes. "The residents of Seattle should." Another contender in that race, Morgan Beach, has also opposed rent control but answered yes. "Removing the ban on rent regulation does not mean I support rent control as an overall policy for Seattle," Beach wrote. "I believe this will harm affordability in the long term. I do believe in allowing municipalities their own decision making powers though."
• Across other races, there's broad support for asking the state to lift the ban. There are two notable opponents of lifting the ban, though. One is Shannon Braddock, chief of staff for King County Council Member Joe McDermott, who's running in District 1 (West Seattle) against Licata's aide Lisa Herbold. The other is Catherine Weatbrook, O'Brien's best-funded opponent in District 6 (Fremont, Ballard).
• Check out these answers from Africatown activist Omari Tahir-Garrett, who's running for citywide position 9:
The full responses from the candidates who answered are all right here.