FOLLOWUP: City Councilmembers discuss creating Renters’ Commission

Back when we talked to Councilmember Lisa Herbold to look back at her first year in office and ahead to her second, the proposal for a citywide renters’ commission is one of the “what’s next” items she mentioned. The proposal went before a City Council committee for the first time today, and Herbold sent out this update:

Did you know that 53.8 percent of Seattle’s housing units are occupied by renters, and approximately 48% of residents in the city are renters? Renters are an important part of our city. The Affordable Housing, Neighborhood and Finance Committee held its first discussion on proposed legislation to create a Renters’ Commission this morning, March 3, 2017.

The proposal to create this Commission was first advocated for by Zachary DeWolf of the Capitol Hill Community Council. I am excited to join Councilmembers Burgess and O’Brien in responding to this proposal because we need to ensure that, as our city grows and changes, the renters’ voice will be heard as a part of our decision-making.

Some people have expressed concern that we are creating a special interest group. The City has 45 Boards and Commissions representing special interest groups. With so many people in Seattle being renters, it’s appropriate to have a commission committed to lifting the voice of renters. The formation of this Commission will not minimize the input of property owners; rather it will broaden the opportunity for more inclusive input from a significant portion of Seattle’s population.

The Renters Commission will represent a diverse set of renter voices from across the city. The Commission will be empowered to advise on a variety of issues ranging from transportation, land use and community development, to monitoring the implementation of the city’s new landlord tenant legislation, like Source of Income Discrimination and the Move-In Fees legislation, as well as watchdogging enforcement of older laws like the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, and the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance.

The AHNF Committee plans to vote on this legislation, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, at 9:30 am.

This was part of the councilmember’s weekly update, which just went out to her mailing list, addresses several other topics, and will eventually appear online at

18 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: City Councilmembers discuss creating Renters' Commission"

  • The Truth March 3, 2017 (3:48 pm)

    Not just this commission but all city commissions are just a way to stack the deck to say they have the support of “commission x” to back whatever legislation they want to pass.  Stack the commission with like minded vocal people and pretend it is the voice of the people.  Let’s face it, it is the voice of 7-9 people that as far as I know I didn’t vote for to represent my view.  We again add another layer to the Seattle process.  

    Do these commissions receive any compensation?  

    Can they be used to reward donors to campaigns?  

    How are they appointed?

    How do they reach out to the public to solicit feedback to make sure there point of view is representative of all people that are effected by their issue they are to speak for? 

    Is there a single family home owner commision?

    I would love to know the answers to this if anyone has them off the top of there head.

    • WSB March 3, 2017 (3:56 pm)

      Re: how they’re appointed, that’s in the slide deck that’s part of the first link in our quoted text from the councilmember’s update.

      which I’m going to add, embedded, to the top of the story.

      • The Truth March 3, 2017 (4:08 pm)

        Thanks for that!  It looks like with 12 seats appointed by the city council/mayor that it has the potential to create a commission in lockstep with council/mayoral agendas.  

        • WSB March 3, 2017 (4:14 pm)

          Similar to the appointment configuration for the Community Involvement Commission, replacing neighborhood-district councils. Anyway, I don’t believe $ is involved – most city boards/commissions are uncompensated, according to listings on the boards/commissions page that is also linked in the CM’s update.

        • Mark Schletty March 3, 2017 (4:32 pm)

          The Truth– the first paragraph in your first comment pretty much sums it up. From an old, very experienced, community organizer in another city, i can tell you with all certainty that no group supposedly representing anybody will actually represent them unless the group is selected by those they are supposed to represent.  Period. This is another sham representative commission.

  • Mr. B March 3, 2017 (4:46 pm)

    In other news, our infrastructure is crumbling and crime is on the rise.  Thanks Lisa.  

    • Mike March 3, 2017 (7:49 pm)

      And we’re still dumping millions of gallons a day of untreated sewage into Puget Sound, but who needs to fund things that keep everyone safe and from bacteria and diseases?  Our city, county, state and federal leadership is full of greedy jerks.  They only want to push agendas that get them higher up the chain.  We, the people, will pay for their gain.  How about we have leadership look into how we can keep housing affordable to BUY and ensure longevity in our community AND keep people from living paycheck to paycheck renting (aka, throwing money away).  I’d be paying more in rent now than my mortgage currently is, my mortgage is a fixed rate, rents ALWAYS go up.

  • My two cents ... March 3, 2017 (7:01 pm)

    ” … we need to ensure that, as our city grows and changes, the renters’ voice will be heard as a part of our decision-making.”

    We need to also get similar setups for condo owners, homeowners, home owners who rent, small corporations that own property, those that want to own property, BnB occupants (over 2 weeks) — just to name a few.

    @ Mr. B — true, Ms. Herbold would rather get a headline than actually addressing substantive issues such as you referenced.

    • Jon Wright March 3, 2017 (7:30 pm)

      So what’s stopping you from organizing any of those things?

      • My two cents ... March 4, 2017 (5:10 am)

        I was  trying to make a point that seemingly every or any group can have a commission.  The elected officials need to be acting not getting caught up in a bureaucratic treadmill.  The recent issue on expanding/changing the zoning areas was open to everyone, homeowners and renters… They all have a voice in shape in the future 

         All citizens I have a voice… Their vote .

        BTW – If we suffered a catastrophic economic meltdown, would property owners be able to advocate for minimum rental rates in order to keep their units viable? 


  • CAM March 3, 2017 (7:37 pm)

    Why is it so problematic that renters would have a voice in the government? If it is your perception that another group of people having a forum to offer their opinion would substantially detract from your ability to have a say in things, maybe you need to consider the privilege you currently have. Members of government and those with more secure access to them are quite likely to be more likely to be home owners than renters. Having a group of renters to advocate for their needs within government can only serve to increase the government’s awareness of the unique issues that renters face which they are unlikely to have first hand experience with. Quite simply, if in order to get what you want you have to silence other people that isn’t a good sign. 

    • Capti March 3, 2017 (10:35 pm)

      Cam- I am a landlord and not against a commission per se but the idea that renters have no protections from my perspective is waaaaay off. I’m not putting words in your mouth I’ve just heard that narrative over the last year or so and am listing that as a side note first for some reason. :)

      Renters have tons of rights to the point that their rent is going to go up due to the added liability being put on landlords. Landlords have so much more risk than a renter; so much.

      That being said: they do need a voice on larger more overarching things such as planning and zoning changes, etc because they don’t have much of a voice when it comes to that. And they should be able to share their experiences and monetary challenges in order to help shape policy.

      Youre right. Tuesday at 2pm in city hall you’re not going to see a lot of renters commenting to the city council: they’re at work trying to make money for rent! That’s where all of the established homeowners come out of the woodwork and in some cases do them harm. The 60 yr old guy who’s house is paid off and doesn’t like that it ain’t what it used to be and is retired……That’s who has time to go. Most of us were renters at some point and most of us aren’t bad people.

      They totally need a chance instead of “suck it up buttercup” because it ain’t what it used to be. Graduate high school, go learn how to weld, buy a house, have 2.3 kids. That’s not reality nowadays in seattle and it’s going to get worse if we keep it up.

  • CR March 3, 2017 (9:02 pm)

    Both homeowners and renters need to keep in mind that the City of Seattle and King County tax increases that continue to voted for apply to everyone.  As the media is reporting, the folks that voted for ST3 without reading the fine print are shocked that they too have to participate and are crying foul.   The votes for continued property tax increases get passed through to the renters.  Keep in mind that everyone participates.   There is no “free ride”.  

  • aimless blade March 3, 2017 (10:33 pm)

    Renters would likely want to see an increase in the number and variety of rental units; so prices would stabilize.

    Is there some process we can use to slow the growth of new housing, so we landlords can keep prices as high as possible?

  • KT March 4, 2017 (11:41 am)

    The formation of this Commission will not minimize the input of property owners; rather it will broaden the opportunity for more inclusive input from a significant portion of Seattle’s population.  Bull.  I see nothing that says Settle city government cares a whiff about property owners other than using them as a piggy bank.  

  • CAM March 4, 2017 (2:21 pm)

    Thank you, Capti. I largely agree with you except with your perception of who is at greater risk in the relationship. The possibility of losing ones only home is not something to be taken lightly. 

    I’d like to throw out for general consumption that people seem to be ignoring that the laws and rules on the books are already written with a bias towards those who have the ability to purchase property and towards “traditional” nuclear families. This is built into the tax code and other laws both at the state and federal level. If you want an example of somewhere that has actively worked to make their policies unbiased you would have to look to the Scandinavian countries. For example, any homeowners willing to give up the deduction they get on their taxes for the interest on their mortgage? I’d sure as hell like to see a tax deduction on my rent expenses. I’d also like to see my city council members working with utility providers, including internet and cable, to set reasonable minimums for service. As an apartment dweller it sure doesn’t benefit me to know that I can get as many boxes as I want included with my subscription for “free”.

    These are neither the best or only examples of ways that my needs as a renter will not be understood by a homeowner. In general homeowners are either oblivious to this or they are aware and don’t want to lose the special privilege they’ve accessed and thus won’t adequately represent my needs. Homeowners rightly advocate for what they need and I do not begrudge them that opportunity. I wish the feeling was mutual. 

    • Captin March 5, 2017 (1:02 pm)

      I’m with you 100%. And I believe homeowners clinging to the status quo are hurting renters and challenging the goal of homeownership for future generations. And encouraging sprawl which hurts the planet. Etc, etc.

      I get it as far as the risk of loosing ones home. What I was getting at as a landlord (because I am fortunate enough to have been born and reach buying a house age before things went crazy) is that  one big scratch in hardwood floors or one broken whatever far exceeds a typical damage deposit. Out of 10 tenants I’ve had about 3 good ones. Maybe that’s my fault. I’ve had people bail early and break their lease, leave tons of garbage and disappear, yadda, yadda. All they lost was their deposit (which I always kept small, oops!). I lost a weekend, a day or two off of work and 100’s of $.

      I believe in fairness and balance on all things. We need more housing and we need rights for tenants and landlords. As long as it’s balanced and fair I’m all in.

      Spread the word to other renters. If they don’t want to commute from Arlington they need to speak up because people who own homes and have free time have a big loud voice. This city is on the fast track to have and have not. So what if an 8 unit place goes up by my house? Let’s do it. I’d way rather have the ramen place, a barber shop and a pie place than the rocksport. Sorry homeowners! Just sayin’

      I feel for my kids. I’ll miss them when they move to Nebraska because a 2br apt. in Seattle is $4200 a month!

  • Mark Schletty March 4, 2017 (4:15 pm)

    This string of comments highlights what is really going on. The Mayor and Council are hoping for this kind of us vs them reaction. It keeps people from noticing the real issue, which isn’t whether or not renters should have a “commission” representing renters, it’s that these “commissions” won’t really represent the claimed interest group. This commission, like all the others, won’t be picked by renters. It will be picked by the Mayor and the City Council. It will, therefore, represent the people who picked them, not renters. Renters are just  the newest group to be scammed by this process.

Sorry, comment time is over.