One Simple Way Washington State Can Address Its Housing Crisis

In 2017, Olympia Could Finally Ban Housing Discrimination Based on Income

Comments

1
Section 8 renters are, for the most part, responsible people who definitely do not treat your building like absolute shit and trash the place.
2
I am a landlord and I have had Section 8 tenants. The biggest problem is timely collection of rent. The Section 8 tenant must and do pay their portion of the rent in a timely fashion in accordance with the lease, however, the balance which is the large portion that comes from the Housing Authority comes at that agency's pace, which means it always comes late, usually 10-15 days late. I love all my good tenants but I still have to pay the mortgage on time. Late payments from the Housing Authority make it hard to have Section 8 tenants.
3
I am puzzled by this whole issue.
What "legitimate business reasons" (or even illegitimate ones) exist to not want Section 8 renters? Or Social Security? etc
The LL is guaranteed of the rent which is 90% of what a LL wants.
So, Heidi, why do some LLs resist? Can't raise rent as easily? Or at all?

4
Thx, @2

Sounds to me as if there must be a possible solution for all --modification of Housing Authority procedures.
THAT's where the focus should be, not trying to beat up LLs.
5
Heidi, You missed a key aspect of Section 8. The total contract rent (not just the portion paid by Section 8) may not exceed Fair Market Rent (FMR). FMR is based on a survey HUD takes, by county, once per year.

So in a market, like Seattle, it does not reflect the differences between market rents being charged in city vs. those being charged in Federal Way. It doesn't reflect that the fact that by the time the results of the annual survey are published in January, market rents in King County have already gone up 2% and that by mid year they have gone up 5%. So unless you are going to pass rent restrictions, saying all landlords must take Section 8, doesn't help much. Section 8 won't allow the voucher holder to rent the apartment if the total rent (not just the Section 8 portion) exceeds the survey rent from December of the prior year. So the landlord can say, I'll take the voucher, and HUD will say, we won't spend it with you because your rent is above what our 10 month (or 1 month, or 6 month) old survey says the taxpayers should expect to pay. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/…

HUD needs to update its market surveys to make them monthly, not annually. Markets are dynamic. What consumers are willing to bid for apartments changes month to month, not just once a year.
6
What we need in WA is rent control. Not just in Seattle- statewide. Even Tacoma is starting to see the effects of skyrocketing rents, with low-wage workers who used to commute into Seattle and live in downtown T-town being forced further and further south. Olympia is now swamped with economic refugees from the mid-Sound region, and hasn't got enough available housing to absorb the influx.

Rent is an economic problem that has to be dealt with through regulation. Land is a finite commodity. You can't just make more of it after its all been bought up. Because of that, landowners have an unfair advantage over the consumers when it comes to rental properties. The Sound is faced with even greater challenges- even though most of the jobs are in Seattle, that City is squeezed between major bodies of water in multiple directions, not to mention a tangled mess of a highway system that takes up further potential living spaces.

Life is very good if you own a lot of properties in the Puget Sound area. Politicians like Ed Murray show up at the mansions by Volunteer Park hosting fundraisers because he knows thats where all the money is. Unless he promises these wealthy old queens protection from Kshama Sawant, he can't finance re-election campaigns for him or his allies. When he does budge, its only because he's being shoved in that direction by constituents whose votes aren't going to be bought by White Elephants such as Bertha and the Tunnel.

As glad as I am to have Kshama in there forcing the City to take renter's rights seriously, she is hampered by the state legislature. We need to mount a campaign all across the state to allow rent-control everywhere, not just Seattle. For the past few years, I've been meeting low wage workers who are now either homeless or borderline homeless in Olympia, folks who aren't strung out on meth or the victims of bad decisions, just people who used to be able to survive in Tacoma on a low-wage factory job who just cant afford to live there anymore and cant find available housing in Olywa. What are we goingt o do? Keep sending them further and further South?
7
@6 Surely you see that housing is a limited commodity, and controlling rent doesn't put an extra roof over anyone's head. The many studies done have shown it does the opposite as you've reduced the incentive to build more housing.

Which brings me to what I came here to say - all of these anti-discrimination measures are great. I'm all for them. But at what point to we start tackling the real problem: severely limited housing supply in the city, as we can only build multifamily housing on 13% of our land?

I want to see rowhouses. I want to see apartments throughout Seattle, not just concentrated in a few neighborhoods. That's the one thing that would really make Seattle more affordable: having enough housing for our people.
8
@7,

Your statement has a few logical flaws I'd like to address. Rent control does in fact put roofs over the heads of people who cannot otherwise afford the roof you would charge them for int eh absence of Rent Control.

Most Seattle jobs are low-wage service sector positions. Unregulated rents are driving people who run this city out of this city, as they cannot afford to live here. You're even displacing them from Tacoma and Everett, which already involve several hours of time to commute into and out of Seattle. If we don't control he rents you are charging, people are going to be so far displaced that they will no longer be able to commute i not Seattle to perform the work we need them to do to keep this city going.

Look, you have people commuting into Seattle from Olympia now just o work at our schools and in our stores. How much farther are you going to shove them out? To Chehalis? Nobody's going to commute every day from Chehalis to work at a Burger King.

What we need us less showing in the private sector and more of it in public ownership. You aren't building anything, even though you already charge rents that rival housing costs in places like Manhattan and LA. Since you are not responding to your out of control profits, there is zero reason to believe that giving you even more money ill do anything to motivate you o build.

And since you won't supply the city with what it needs to survive- affordable housing in the city for the people who work in the city- the city might just have to take that property from you and build the housing you refuse to build. Governments aren't motivated by profit, and can supply based on need.

If this sounds a little too radical for you, wake up my friend. People are losing patience with landlords here, and your pleas for more and more money are falling on deaf ears. It wouldn't take much to convince them to do what I have just described. If you don't voluntarily reduce rents to a reasonable level, we do that without your consent.
9
Im not black or some minority, but just a worker still making the same wage I was making a decade ago while everything jumps a minimum of 30% annually. I got my third rent increase in a year officially putting the cost of living above what I make. The best way to alleviate the housing crisis? Do what I'm doing- Move to a cheaper state! There are actually a lot of them. And thats where a lot of people are doing. I say give the landlords what they deserve - empty property they cant make money on. I say give the business and government "leaders" of this state what they deserve - hard to find competent employees who will be willing slaves for nothing but to pay for a roof. I say give the elitists in this town what they deserve - higher taxes to pay taxpayer funded projects and with any luck - a nurse, or EMT who will come to their rescue when needed - if there are any around. I say give this town what its given its lower wage workers since the housing crash that is once again rearing it ugly head in the form of an over-inflated bubble - give it the boot. Because when it happens again, it will be the lowest end screwed over again. Life is too short to live with six people in a two bedroom apartment in Seattle that doubles as a zoo, especially when there are so many viable options available in this country for those smart enough to just leave it to those who created this mess in the first place!
10
Go east of Spokan't, blind Trump supporters, and don't come back!
That was easy.
11
No, seriously---self-destructive idiot Trumpists can have everything that's coming to them---floods, wildfires, pestilence, extreme poverty, lack of healthcare, homelessness, irretrievably poisoned tap water, unbreathable air, while forever answering to numb, faceless corporate slumlords with no hope for retirement. They brought it all on themselves.
12
@11: And I forgot a few more to add to their idiot wish-list: severe drought, 10 month heat waves in the triple digits, death to all fish and wildlife, livestock and crops, and desertification. Oh, and coal miners and Bakken crude oil frackers out for a quick buck? No jobs on a dead planet.
13
"In a city where more than half of all dwellings are rentals, where black households have seen their incomes fall even as the median household income has risen, and where a significant number of the city's new young residents are finding jobs at the lowest end of the income scale,"

Isn't this an interesting observation. In a city where the economy is booming!

I submit:

1) $15 Now has cut the number of total hours worked for minimum wage workers -- (See UW Study which clearly bears this out) and has eliminated positions for the "unskilled workers and minorities".

Property crime is rising..... what does one do if you can't find work?

2) Very poor urban planning and increased costs/fees have made it more costly to build thus reducing the housing and rental housing stocks.

Many developers are hesitant to build with the prospect of being sued in the future on condo construction projects, being subject to hefty development fees/costs and even fewer are interested with taking capital risk with the new adversarial tenant laws--

-- rent control
-- 6 months to pay deposits
-- new regulations on rental applicants.

So... low income/min wage earners get hammered and you have shortage of housing stock....Wow!

This is the result of "politicians...well intentioned as they may be, but who lack the basic fundamental understanding of economics and by their their very acts are creating this mess in the market.
14
I thought of becoming a Section 8 landlord. After reading up on the rules and layers of bureaucracy, I dispensed with the idea. Ms. Groover - did it ever occur to you that maybe with the ever growing list of regulations and rules surrounding the typical landlord, we are not willing to get into bed with yet another layer of bureaucracy? Have you read an entire landlord's guide to Section 8 housing? For example, as a Sec8 landlord, I would be required by The Feds to "ensure no one that is not on the Sec8 application is living in the unit." Huh? I know of no **requirement** to date that requires your typical landlord to spy on their tenants like this. So tell me, Ms. Groover, how would YOU ensure you were not violating said rule? Have the neighbors spy on your tenants? Make surprise, and illegal, "pop in" inspections? How? Why on earth would anyone involve themselves in the lives of their tenants like this? And I know damn well that when push comes to shove, the TENANT in violation of the rules gets a slap on the wrist while the landlord gets reamed. Why would anyone sign up for that?

And if a tenant has a reduction in income, then the $$ coming from the state must be increased. How long does THAT take and how long do I have to cover the living expenses of strangers before WA state makes the adjustment in what I am paid? And when I thought back to the rude, slow, unhelpful interactions I've had with various city, county and state departments over the years...

Have you reviewed the charts and forms associated with this process? Worked the calculations that have something to do with ensuring the utility bills for the unit don't go over some magic number related to the tenant's income I simply could not figure out before I threw all this shit in the recycle, never to be thought about again?

15
@8 Let's start with your claim that rent control will stop people from being displaced. Great, those people that get rent control stay where they are. But having not added any roofs over heads, and still having more demand than supply, who will be displaced in their place? The rich? Ha, good luck with that one. It will be other poor people that would have not otherwise been displaced. They'll be outbid by the same people that would have outbid those that you saved.

About these "out of control profits" you speak about. Do you have a source for that? Developers tend to make a profit, sure, but not an overly high one. If it was so lucrative to build then a flood of companies would come in and build until you get back to standard profits.

Rent is set based on demand (how much people are willing to pay). This has shot up because we have a lot of new jobs. If we were able to build enough to satisfy that demand, rents would come back down. But instead we have only 13% of our land area devoted to multifamily housing with 65% saved for one unit per 5,000 square feet (single family homes). That's exclusionary, racist in its roots, and the absolute reason that construction can't keep up with demand and drop rents back to affordable levels.

Want government to seize properties to build? Great. Try that. But considering our government doesn't even have the guts to let people build apartments on our precious rich single family homes, I think you'll have a bit of trouble finding enough backbone to seize property.
16
This is a fine policy, and worthy of support for many of the reasons articulated in the article. But the headline is ridiculous: it does not in any meaningful sense "address the housing crisis." The housing crisis is insufficient housing to meet demand. This won't reduce demand or increase supply, it will just make a slight adjustment to the composition of the people who get housing. It rearranges winners and losers in a more just and fair way than the status quo, but without reducing demand or increasing supply (or reducing demand) you can't credibly claim to be addressing the housing crisis.
17
@13 mistral: Wow. Now I'm glad to not own a condo where I live (outside Seattle).
I understand that HOAs can foreclose upon and evict condo owners who are just
one month behind on homeowners' dues.
Renting is not fail-safe, either; rents can, and like mortgages & HOA fees, do go up.
The challenge is to find what works (not for all of us) and be prepared to adjust to
life changes.
18
@17: Crap. Sorry I forgot to indent. Again.
19
As long as certain needs are not treated as such by all levels of political governance . . . . --- http://planet.squat.net (N) & http://ruzumna.com/2011/11/01/the-basics… & http://www.un.org/en/universal-declarati…
20
The states do not fund Section 8, the federal government does and congress holds the purse strings to HUD and all of its horrible programs. I believe President Trump and congress will take the steps needed to eliminate HUD and to eliminate these programs that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year. The 2017 Transportation and Housing Bill is now being "reworked" by the new congress and these welfare housing programs are going to get cut once and for all. The monies will be diverted to Transportation to fund the President's infrastructure programs which will bring hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs all across the country. The failed "great society" era is over and its about time.