News Feb 7, 2024 at 12:25 pm

As the Movement to Restrict Rent-Gouging Grows, Key Senate Democrat Blocks Progress

This year, Sen. Annette Cleveland took up the anti-renter mantle. But she’s not alone. Washington State Legislature

Comments

1

I hate to be a total asshole, but 92% rent increase over a decade is less than 7% per year.

2

@2: Almost exactly 6.75% annually. Which means the Stranger shouldn’t be angry about this bill not passing; the Stranger should be angry the proposed cap was uselessly high.

3

@2 Absolutely. Maybe something more in line with cost of living increases (3%? 4%? I dunno). But it also goes to show that even though "landlords can raise rent by 15%, 16%, 20%, 30%, 100%, or even a million percent every year if they’d like" on the whole, on their own and without any laws, it's less than 7% (I know there are some egregious cases). That being said, I would love to see a story on a landlord raising rents by one million percent, just to see how long it would take for them to be tar and feathered.

4

I have no problem with rent caps but rather the city's permissive attitude toward the tenant who simply decides to stop paying and pushes it for as long as they can. The same goes for the squatter who simply takes what he wants or the tenant who is finally forced to move and trashes the place.

5

I’m really Interested to see how our Social Housing PDA pans out - that seems to be the answer to the free market folks (add some competition - and don’t kneecap it like Medicare). I also wish someone in the legislature or SCC would look at ending short term rentals (like NYC, LA, Palm Springs) - that would go a long way towards decommodify housing (something we desperately need).

6

RE: why be "angry" when rents increased by exactly 6.75% annually over a decade? That was then, this is now:
Rental rates skyrocketing across Washington
Spokane (Mar. 2020 - Mar. 2021)
⬆32.0%
Tacoma (Oct. 2020 - Oct. 2021)
⬆18.9%
It took more than a few "egregious cases" to bump these percentages up so high. Most landlords may not need rent stabilization legislation to do the right thing, just as most people don't need the threat of imprisonment to keep us from robbing people at gunpoint. Regulations to prevent rent gauging are needed for the same reason most other laws against harming others are in place. Some people need exterior consequences to curtail their most reptilian inclinations. This legislation won't force ethical landlords to change a thing.

Percentages noted above are from https://www.wliha.org/2023-public-policy-priorities/pass-bills-stabilize-rent-increases-and-prevent-rent-gouging

7

Perhaps we ban Democrats from taking Economics 101?

8

Only The Stranger would call a Democrat who champions reproductive health care a “conservative.”

9

@6: Thanks for the link on “How to Lie With Statistics.” Let’s look at the Seattle-area figures. Following the links back to Seattle Met magazine (https://www.seattlemet.com/home-and-real-estate/2022/09/cost-to-rent-an-apartment-seattle-bellevue-redmond-issaquah-august-2022), we have:

“Since March 2020, when the onset of the pandemic caused prices to plunge, rents are up 17 percent.”

So, if we start counting from an artificially low point — in this case, the onset of a once-in-a-century global disaster which resulted in millions of Americans no longer needing any home or shelter of any kind — then prices rise dramatically as the disaster wanes. Quelle surprise.

The largest single-year increase for the Seattle area happened in Redmond, which saw an annual increase of — wait for it! — 15 percent. So exactly none of the Seattle-area rent increases would have been illegal under the proposed law.

Also at the link @6, we have a big red flag in this oft-repeated ‘fact’: “Studies show that every $100 in median rent increases leads to a 9% increase in homelessness.”

Following the links back, it’s one ‘study,’ actually an estimate by Congress’ General Accounting Office. It does not cover all rental situations, but a certain subset:

“The figure below shows estimated homelessness rates and median household rent, which includes actual rent paid by renters for occupied units with shared living situations rather than total rent for the entire unit. Therefore some localities, such as New York City, may appear to have lower rent than expected.

“Specifically, we found that a $100 increase in median rent was associated with a 9% increase in the estimated homelessness rate…”

(https://www.gao.gov/blog/how-covid-19-could-aggravate-homelessness-crisis)

So, from an “associated with a 9% increase in the estimated homeless rate” not for the general renting population, but specifically for, “rent paid by renters for occupied units with shared living situations…” we get all the way to “Studies” showing a causal relationship between rents and homelessness for the general renting population! Now that is some primo truth-stretching, that is.

There may be an excellent case for rent stabilization. This headline post and supportive commenters seem intent upon making the opposite case.

10

@8 -- you don't understand, according to The Stranger the real supporters of reproductive rights are people who actively tried to get Trump elected in 2016 and are trying again in 2024, not Democrats.

11

"But, Goetz argued, rent control did not cause that reduction. Landlords who took advantage of loopholes allowing them to move into their own properties or demolish them to construct condos that were exempt from rent controls caused it."

In other words, the property owners decided that the best use of their property (i.e., highest return on investment) was condos rather than apartments. I wonder if being told that the return on their apartments would be artificially limited contributed to that decision? Anyone? Buehler?

And anyone who thinks the same would not happen here is very, very naive.

12

@11 dvs99: I find this very worrisome.

WTF does Annette Cleveland have against renters in Washington State?

13

In the mid-1970s had an acquaintance who worked on DC's Capitol Hill as a congressional committee staffer. Said then that the common watchword among the staffers - regardless of personal ideology - was that of the electeds the Republicans were glassbowls and the Democrats idjits. Nothing's changed.

14

We need more housing, not less.

Rent Caps shrink the housing supply. This has been proven over and over again. Senator Cleveland is standing up for renters by voting against harmful rent caps.

From the magazine: THE ECONOMIST

"Berlin Germany's socialist city council, introduced a five-year Rent Cap for all apartments built before 2014 that came into force in 2020

But the problem, entirely foreseeable and foreseen, is that the caps have made the city’s housing shortage much worse: the number of classified ads for rentals has fallen by more than half."

"One thing is certain. The rent cap has managed to make Berlin’s housing shortage even worse"

Yes, 50% of affordable apartments disappeared from the market in Berlin. 50%! (it was still easy to find apartments for those units excluded from rent caps, but the prices are those apts increased a ton due to demand)

The situation got so bad, that Berlin's Socialist city council overturned rent caps in 2022.

So, Stranger readers, feeble-minded people, and Rich Smith: if you are OK not being able to find an apartment and have to move back into your parents basement, keep criticizing Sen. Cleveland.

15

@11/14 I think what Rich is saying is that rent control only works in a world with no loopholes meaning people are not allowed to opt out (e.g. elimination of private property rights). That is what the former D3 rep used to prattle on about in her legislation. Ignore the fact that it is completely unconstitutional and voila you have a working rent control model. Of course no private entity will build new housing in that model so you'll also need the government to now take over housing construction. That is a feature, not a bug.

16

@8 Some conservatives do support reproductive rights (there was a time when Republicans were overall more in favor of legal abortion than Democrats were). That doesn't make them liberals.

17

@1, 2,

Rich is no doubt aware of this. His point was obviously that the average annual increases were nevertheless exorbitant (do your salaries increase by anything approaching 7% annually? Mine never has) and the proposed measure wouldn't have curtailed or impacted this. And so whatever defense she was attempting was futile regardless. I suppose the phrasing was a bit awkward, but anyone not desperate to "pwn the libs" shouldn't have had any trouble parsing the intent and meaning there.

18

@17 Rich is a journalist, and although you speaking for him to clarify is appreciated, he should be able to do that himself. Saying "rents went up by 92% over a decade!" sounds a lot more drastic than "rents went up under 7% a year, and this lady didn't support a cap at 15%!", especially if you are math-challenged (many Americans are). I am not trying to "own the libs" because I am one. But part of the point is that landlords, apparently the vast majority of whom don't raise their rents by 15%, may see a bill that says you can as permission to do so. Like I said (@3), maybe something more in line with 3-4%, echoing cost of living increases, would be a better goal.

BTW my salary increases by 5-7% a year, and I also get other raises every few. I am also part of a syndicate (kind of like a union) that pays me to be a member (and not vice versa), and I get steep increases in pay from it every couple of years as long as I do my job right. And my other union almost annually calls for a bigger cost of living raise, and wins about half the time. Also -- I don't live in the United States, and this kind incentive/reward package is normal in my industry. Good luck America though!

19

@18,

Fair enough, and I agree it'd have benefited from a simple editorial re-phrasing there. I guess I just disagree that the majority of folks wouldn't have been able to parse that out, though I suppose I could be overestimating the mental aptitude of my fellow readers. I dunno. And good for you re: your annual salary bumps, though that's definitely not the norm here stateside, FWIW.

20

@17: If a less-than-7%-annually increase was “exorbitant,” then a law intended to prohibit exorbitant increases should have prohibited 7% increases, not allowed increases up to more than twice that. As I noted @2, the Stranger criticized the wrong problem.

21

@12 - I find it worrisome too. Reducing the supply of housing ultimately hurts everyone. I have yet to see a study showing that rent control has the long-term effect of allowing more renters to have affordable housing. What does work, and what we need to do, is to 1) build some publicly supported housing and 2) provide rent subsidies for those who can't afford a place to live.


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