News Feb 26, 2024 at 6:11 pm

If Your Rent Goes Up More than 7% Soon, then Blame These Democratic Senators

(L-R) Blame Sens. Mark Mullet and Kevin Van De Wege if your rent goes up more than 7% this year. Washington State Senate



Van De Wege would be a terrible public lands commissioner


And if your rent does not automatically go up 7% for each of the next few years, you can thank these Dems for that as well.

The pro-rent control side has yet to give us an example of a city where rent control increased the supply of affordable housing. The Stranger has been unable to come up with one. On the other hand, there are sound arguments why rent control (and yes, let's call this bill by what it actually is rather than "rent stabilization" or "free ponies for renters") will drive even more people out of the rental market and reduce rental housing supply. Seattle has already transferred much of the risk in a rental relationship from tenants to landlords, and the result has been that thousands of single-family rentals have gone off the market.

Here's the thing: owning rental properties is not without risk. And it's not without effort. Those who call it "passive income" have never owned or managed a rental property. So long as interest rates were low, the return on rental real estate was better than what you got in a high-yield savings account. It's getting to where that is not the case anymore. And if the two returns on investment are even close, you'd be nuts to take on the added risk and responsibility of being a landlord relative to just putting the money in the bank. A bill that prospectively limits the future potential rental income, regardless of how much expenses go up (property taxes, for one, continue to climb, and there is general inflation on everything) will tip that balance even further. Once it gets to where it doesn't make economic sense to be in this business, people will get out. And your apartment will be sold and turned into townhouses/condos. That helps no renters whatsoever.

Everyone agrees that there is a housing crisis. More people than apartments = a problem. The way out of that is not to discourage people from being in the housing business, it is to incentivize more housing construction and preserving what we already have. It's very likely that the bottom end of the market just can't be served by the private sector. Land is expensive. Construction is expensive (and we do want the construction workers paid a living wage, right?). Property taxes and permits are expensive. It's very hard to see how "affordable" housing pencils out if you define it as affordable for people making minimum wage. The government is going to have to subsidize that segment. Heavily. And that is fine. It's also a hell of a lot fairer than telling the small percentage of people who own rental properties that they have to shoulder the burden.

Where's the article demanding that these legislators you love to vilify come up with some meaningful funding for housing assistance? I know torches and pitchforks are more fun, but they won't solve the problem.


@2: The Stranger has long been in complete denial about why rents in Seattle rose as quickly as they did. First, the real reason, from federal census figures for Seattle, by decade:

2020 738,172
2010 608,660
2000 564,092
1990 516,332
1980 493,846
1970 530,831
1960 557,087

Over five decades, 1960-2010, Seattle's population grew by less than ten per cent. During the single decade after that, it grew by over twenty-one per cent. And those new arrivals were mostly highly-paid tech' workers, who were disproportionally more likely to drive up the cost of rents. From that very time, here's the Stranger, casually dismissing Seattle's rapid increase in high-income population as a factor in rental increases (!), and instead blaming -- wait for it! -- Sinister Asians:

"Yes, our tech sector is growing. Welcome to Seattle! Happy you’re here, you 70,000 people who have joined us since 2010. Tech workers, however, are not the problem."


"This flow of Chinese money is looking for the next housing market, and it appears that Seattle and California cities are emerging targets."'



Why no mention of Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair June Robinson, D-Everett - seems she owns some of the blame (she is the chair)?


Those photos look like the AI result for "mansplainer".


For those who insist rent control is the solution, you are all invited to move to OR or CA, both of which have rent control and also have widely available, inexpensive, high quality rental housing near transit, employment, and entertainment.


@2 if you think property taxes and inflation are driving costs just wait until the city or state start targeting these older buildings for being climate unfriendly. The retrofits that will be required would make them unsustainable if also paired with limits to rent increases to help pay for them.


@1 HW3: +1 Agreed. Especially after Hillary Franz.

@4 Buddhamat: +1 Agreed. Excellent question.

@5 DOUG For the WIN!!

Senators Mark Mullet D-Tukwila, Kevin Van De Wege D-Seattle, Annette Cleveland D-Vancouver, and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair, June Robinson, D-Everett are obviously in state legislature for their own self interests. They're DINOs--RepubliKKKans posing as Democrats, and need to be replaced by REAL Democrats who represent Washington State residents STAT!
Thanks for the dire warning, Rich. JUST when I was relieved that Doug the Orange Turd Lovin' MAGA Thug Ericksen was dead, gone, and couldn't do any further damage......Jesus wept.


@2 said it best: They should have called this bill "free ponies for renters"

Rich Smith, clearly never took an Economic class that introduced him to the laws--yes immutable laws--of Supply and Demand. Thank goodness (for renters) that Mark Mullet (D) did and voted against shrinking the supply of housing.

If you want advice on art, social justice, poetry, how to succeed at Evergreen State College, I'm sure Rich Smith is unmatched in his knowledge and experience. Economics, not so much.


Rent control is stupid and always does the opposite of what it is supposed to do. It removes properties from the market and those properties that remain deteriorate as owners cease investment in upkeep. It is the haven of the uneducated and desperate politician.


@9 "Rich Smith, clearly never took an Economic class that introduced him to the laws--yes immutable laws--of Supply and Demand."

This is a mistake a lot of people make about SA adherents like Rich and his former mentor. They understand economics perfectly they just don't believe in private property rights. For them driving landlords out of the rental market is a feature not a bug. Once landlords are out the only thing left to fill that vacuum is government owned and controlled housing where we all live in their socialist utopia (just don't ask for more than your 10x10 box though)


@8 - at least get your basic facts correct:

Sen. Mark Mullet is from Issaquah, not Tukwila.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege is not from Seattle, he’s from the Olympic Peninsula.

The communities they represent are drastically different from the ones you think they do, or the core readership of The Stranger.

Do their positions on this issue align with mine? No - and I don’t expect them to. They are suburban and rural legislators respectively, not urbanites.


@3 - I completely agree. There has been an abject failure of the City Council to accept that the population growth we are seeing requires growth in housing, utilities, etc. The combination of sucking up to NIMBY homeowners and pandering to the "eat the rich" crowd has been an unholy alliance. And we are now seeing the unfortunate results of those actions.


@11/District 13 Refugee: You might be right. Rich does understand the basics of economics (He seems like a smart guy), but he may not believe in private property.

The Soviet Union and China under Mao didn't believe in private property either--and it was pretty grim. You had to wait 10-15 years for an apartment that had a shared kitchen and shared toilet. Is that the utopia that Rich Smith pines for?


Let's imagine that I own a house on a double lot, and could put an ADU there. Now let's imagine that I am doing the numbers, incorporating Seattle's high costs and regulations. Even the possibility of rent control will make me stop. So, Democrats, that's what you wanted. Smart.

Please wait...

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