After suffering through more than a decade of sky-rocketing rents, this year "hundreds" of tenants descended on Olympia to support a bill to reduce rent gouging. The Members of Color caucuses in both the House and the Senate prioritized the bill. Seattle's LGTBQ communities also went on the march to voice their support at district town halls, tired of landlords pushing them out of their traditional gayborhoods. The YIMBYs, who care about housing supply more than anyone could possibly care about housing supply, came out in strong support of it, and took care to combat concerns about the legislation threatening that housing supply. The fucking Seattle Times Editorial board wrote an op-ed in support of it. 

And yet today, two Democratic dudes with key positions in the all-powerful Senate Ways & Means Committee decided not to take action on the bill, effectively killing a proposal that would have brought a modicum of financial stability to millions of renters in Washington. Those two dudes were Sens. Kevin Van De Wege, who is running to replace Hilary Franz as Public Lands Commissioner, and Mark Mullet, who is running to the right of Bob Ferguson for governor. Both valiantly declined to respond to a request for comment. 

Among other things, the legislation, sponsored by Seattle Rep. Emily Alvarado, would have capped rent increases at 7% in buildings constructed over ten years ago. The policy aimed to give renters, who make up 40% of the state's population, some ability to plan for their futures while allowing banks and apartment developers to continue making their profits. 

In January, Sen Annette Cleveland became the first conservative Democrat to articulate her objections to this—let's face it—pretty middle-of-the-road legislation. As I explained in an article shortly after she released her statement, her objections made no sense, condescended to her colleagues and to people of color in general, and contravened academic consensus on the issue. 

By the sounds of it, Mullet and Van De Wege didn't even do the work Cleveland did to understand the legislation. In a press conference today, Rep. Alvarado said she talked to Van De Wege, who expressed "generalized concerns about housing supply, but nothing specific." Rep. Strom Petersen, who has led on tenant issues in the last few sessions, said he spoke with the senator, too, and asked if he needed any amendments to move him, and Van De Wege couldn't think of any, despite the fact that he'd co-sponsored the Senate's version of the legislation, which capped rent hikes at 15%. 

Alvarado added that the bill enjoyed "broad support" in the Senate, but the body's current committee structure—which includes Cleveland casting a deciding vote in the Senate housing committee, and a Ways & Means committee stuffed with Republicans and conservative Democrats—was such that a few senators could kill a bill that would have helped millions. 

Both Reps also expressed disappointment in the Senate's general unwillingness to engage on the issue. By contrast, House members were ready to negotiate the height of the cap, the length of the construction exemptions, the notice requirements, and several other parts of the bill to get something through, Alvarado said. 

Nevertheless, Rep. Alvarado vowed to reintroduce the legislation next year. "We will not give up," she said.

Seattle Rep. Nicole Macri, who has carried versions of the proposal in the past, also vowed to keep up the pressure while recognizing the consequences of the Senate's decision. "I won’t stop working until we have stable rents in this state because that is what the working families of Washington deserve. But today my thoughts are with the hundreds of thousands of renters who lost big today and to them I can only say I am sorry.” 

After some of these corporate stooges retire and/or forfeit their seats in the Legislature to peruse their adorable electoral ambitions, renters might just win something next year if they keep fighting. But, given the fact that renter representation in the Legislature hovers in the low single-digits, that fight will always be uphill.