People need the time to catch up on the return rent. ABLOKHIN / GETTYIMAGES.COM
A tsunami of evictions will hit Seattle in the coming year without the Seattle City Council taking bold action. Tens of thousands of evictions, disproportionate in color communities, are likely to overwhelm the courts, shelters and streets as people lose their homes. This would be a human catastrophe on a scale the city has not seen in a century, on top of the unprecedented economic cost our city would have to bear for shelter, shelter / food, health emergencies and public safety crises.
But this catastrophe can be prevented and our city’s elected legislators have a responsibility to act. It is imperative that the Seattle City Council pass Councilor Kshama Sawant’s citywide eviction moratorium by the end of 2021.
Even before the state of emergency, almost three out of five tenants in Germany were unable to bring in $ 400 in an emergency. Almost half of Seattle’s tenants had a rental charge, paying more than 30% of their rental income.
Now the housing crisis is much worse and will remain dire for tens of thousands of tenants, especially in color communities, long after the vaccination programs take off.
Nationwide, around 12 million tenants owe an average of $ 5,850 in return rent and ancillary costs. Around 28% of all US renters started out with rental debt this year. In the black community, which has been hit harder by the economic recession, 53% of households are in rental debt.
It will take at least months, but more realistically years, to pay off these debts.
“There is very little money left for food and car payments, much less for possible medical bills. I’m at a loss and I can’t imagine living like this much longer, ”Logan, a North Capitol Hill tenant, wrote last month as part of a petition to Mayor Durkan.
Another petition signer, Charles, from northeast Seattle, wrote, “I am currently 2 months behind rent and back on my car payments. After spending my savings and paying off my 401k, my safety net is gone. I have turned to almost every organization for help and have been given a few hundred dollars here and there for my rent and utilities. I signed up for every city funded program and started getting grocery stamps, which I never did. Without this moratorium, I would be on the streets facing thousands of bills. This eviction is the only thing keeping my landlord at the table while I try to catch up. “
Logan and Charles were among more than 2,000 people who signed the petition to Mayor Durkan last month calling on them to renew the moratorium.
By organizing the tenants, the mayor managed to extend the protection. But Durkan only extended it for three months – until March. Additionally, tenants like Charles and Logan face the prospect of losing their homes, leading to relentless fear and fear. For this reason, the year-round suspension of evictions is urgently required.
And not only tenants recognize the urgent need to stop evictions for an entire year.
Evan, a homeowner from West Seattle, rents out part of his home. He wrote about the petition to the mayor: “I support the extension of the rental moratorium. It is immoral for landlords to kick tenants out during a pandemic because they can’t pay rent when so many are losing their jobs through no fault of their own. “
Without a bold reaction on many fronts, the impending tidal wave of evictions will sharply exacerbate racist gentrification and disproportionately drive low-income black people out of their homes. A study published by the Seattle City Women’s Commission and the King County Bar Association found that low-income women, especially those who live in most black and Latin American neighborhoods, are at increased risk of eviction. The study also found that black renters experienced a 4.5 times higher eviction rate than their city population suggests.
Adopting a year-long eviction moratorium is a necessary first step to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Seattowners during this health and financial crisis. In addition, we must fight for an equitable recovery to ensure that low-income black people and workers do not pay for the consequences of this pandemic and financial crisis. This includes the establishment of the right that all tenants are represented before an eviction court. Currently, tenants in Seattle often have to go to court against their landlord’s lawyer without legal representation. In New York City, San Francisco, and Newark, New Jersey, tenants have organized and won the right to seek advice on eviction proceedings. Sawant’s office is putting forward laws for equal rights for Seattle tenants.
We also have to fight to get rents and mortgages canceled to ensure the economic crisis doesn’t lead to massive debt and evictions for Seattle renters. We need tenants and all community members who support bold legislative action to address this crisis to attend the Seattle City Council’s Tenant Rights Committee on January 26th at 2 p.m. to discuss Sawant’s annual eviction moratorium bill. Members of the public can register to speak at the committee meeting two hours before the meeting begins.
Seattle City Council must pass a strict eviction moratorium at least until the end of 2021. While our real estate crisis has been brewing for decades, it is now at a boiling point. The city council must work with tenants, who make up the majority of our city’s residents, by suspending evictions for at least the rest of this year.
Organizations listed for identification purposes only.
Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Councilor
Kate Rubin, CEO of Be: Seattle
Violet Lavatai, executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington
Paula Lukaszek, President of the Washington Federation of State Employees 1488
Carolyn Riley-Payne, President, NAACP in Seattle, King County
Sierra Parsons, Communication and Development at W-BLOC (Washington Building Leaders of Change)
Dr. Brandon Peplinski, President of the Resident and Fellow Physician Union – Northwest (RFPU)
Brenna Stroup, RFPU managing director
Karla Esquivel, owner of the Andaluz Boutique Shop
Shirley Henderson, co-owner of Squirrel Chops Coffee and Cuts
Matt Remle, Mazaska speaks
Renee Gordon, The Castle
Samantha Thompson, UAW Local 4121
Arianna Laureano, Rent and Mortgage Cancellation WA
Shemona Moreno, Art and Movement Building, 350 Seattle
Oliver Miska, Democratic Socialist of Seattle in America
LouDella Bowen, Brighton Apartments
Katie Wilson, Transit Riders Union