On Friday the House passed a bill that would reform Washington's landlord-friendly, racist, and retrograde eviction laws. The vote was 51 to 46. Of the Democrats, Reps Kristine Reeves, Eric Pettigrew, Zach Hudgins, Larry Springer, and Brian Blake voted against tenant protections.
The bill is now headed to the Senate, which is expected to give it the OK before sending it along to the Governor. Senate Bill 5600, sponsored by Sen Patty Kuderer, will give tenants 14 days to come up with the rent after receiving an eviction notice. (Current law only gives them 3 days before the eviction process starts.) The language on that eviction notice will be simplified, and if an eviction case ends up going to court, a judge can take into consideration the tenant's life circumstances before issuing a judgment. The bill also expands the landlord mitigation fund, which would basically allow rental assistance for tenants who need it.
Rep. Andrew Barkis proposed an amendment that would only give tenants 7 days to come up with the rent. The amendment went down 51 to 47.
Rep. Brandon Vicks introduced a carve-out for people who own 5 or fewer units, but the language of the amendment was slippery and it failed. Not really a surprise, considering the fact that this is the same idiot who said in his closing statement, "We cannot legislate out of existence poverty." Really, Brandon. Then what the fuck do you think you're doing in office?
In general, the performed concern from Republicans on the floor during the discussion of these amendments was profoundly annoying. These representatives—most of whom were either landlords themselves, the children of landlords, or, in the case of Morgan Irwin (R-Enumclaw), a landlord and a cop—spent their time propping up the rights of homeowners, who enjoy ample evictions protections, at the expense of the rights of renters.
Over and over again Republicans kept positing a landlord who was both an enterprising young achiever of the American dream AND ALSO a 90-year-old grandmother who can only afford to buy her pills if her renter pays rent on time.
The big fear here was that passing modest eviction reforms would force this poor, penny-pinching multiple-home owner to sell her house, which would somehow reduce the amount of available housing stock. Sorry, but it’s difficult to have much sympathy for a 90-year old grandmother who, because she couldn’t start the eviction process after 3 days, was forced to make a couple hundred thousand dollars on her investment property, which will then likely be replaced by an apartment complex or a multi-family unit.
And just in case anyone needed any evidence that elitism—if not racism—was driving a lot of the Republican recalcitrance on this issue, Rep. Bill Jenkin was happy to provide it. He talked about his habit of "going into the bad part of town"—code for low-income neighborhoods—or buying "the worst property in the good part of town" in order to squeeze money out of renters as a landlord. He mumbled something about renters "leaving steaks in the attics so they will stink" as a way of defending a landlord's right to kick people out of their homes as quickly as possible. Are you telling me, Rep. Jenkin, that poor people are out here buying expensive porterhouses and hanging them in the rafters as a way of framing their landlords as slumlords? What kind of bullshit old-man lie is that? Who fucking told you that? You do know this shit is being videotaped, correct?
Rep. Melanie Morgan—who had actually been evicted—gave a moving speech. She said she wouldn't have been evicted—and that she'd still be able to rent today— had this law been enacted. She's since struggled to find housing because she has an eviction judgement against her on her record.
According to the Seattle Times, 70 percent of black people in King County rent their home. Black people are 5.5 times more likely to get evicted than white people in King County—that rises to 6.8 in Pierce County, according to a recent study from the University of Washington. Latinos are almost twice as likely to get evicted than white people in King County. Evictions are one of if not the leading cause of homelessness in Washington. Black women are evicted more than anyone else. People of color disproportionally suffer from the eviction crisis in this country, and Republicans spent two hours trying to maintain that status quo. And five Democrats voted right along with them. Are you fucking kidding me? This is what the Democrats are doing with their majority?
Xochitl Maykovich, political director of Washington CAN, had a rosier take. "The conversation on this bill started a year and a half ago in a community meeting with tenants sharing their struggle with eviction and talking about the ways to change Washington's inhumane and archaic eviction process," she wrote. "And now, Washington is on the precipice of enacting a landmark piece of legislation that will ease our housing crisis. Gives one a bit of hope in our Democratic process."
Over the phone, Sen. Kuderer also struck a hopeful note. "I feel fabulous" she said. "The $2 evictions are the thing of the past!"
"This was a collaborative effort between all the stakeholders," she added. "I think this is substantive policy that will help people stay in their homes and ensure landlords get paid. I think this is a win-win all the way around."
Kuderer said she couldn't say for sure whether the Senate will change the bill once it gets there, but she hopes there's enough votes to concur on the legislation and pass it off to the Governor.