by Kate Rubin
Housing is a basic human need and a fundamental right, yet for many renters, the dream of secure, stable, accessible, and affordable housing remains elusive. The imbalance of power between landlords and renters is glaring, and housing injustice disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous communities, with Black women facing greater risk of eviction than any other group. While Seattle and Washington State have taken steps to address this issue, renters and landlords will never have equal power.
As an invited member of the City of Seattle-convened Small Landlord Stakeholder Group (SLSG), Be:Seattle wants to make it clear where we stand on behalf of the hundreds of tenants we serve every year. Our participation in the SLSG was not in alignment with many of the conclusions reached by other members of the group.
The SLSG report states that the ideas offered should not be viewed as consensus recommendations or endorsed by all participants in the stakeholder process. Unfortunately, we are concerned some may think there was consensus. The suggestions noted in the report were far from unanimous. We vehemently disagree with many of the ideas noted in the SLSG report and made our stance clear throughout the City-led meetings. We emphatically represented tenant education, empowerment, the right to organize, and the inclusion of all tenants in this process.
It is essential that tenants who seek help from us understand that we did not call for “free legal help for small landlords,” nor do we believe landlords are “drowning in a tidal wave of new housing laws in Seattle.” Be:Seattle works to build the power and leadership of renters and people experiencing homelessness to fight displacement and increase access to housing in Seattle that is safe, stable, accessible, and affordable for all. We strive to build strong and inclusive communities by advocating for policies that benefit renters and by challenging systemic issues that contribute to housing inequities. Portraying Be:Seattle as advocates for special treatment of small landlords undermines the hard-won renter protections we have fought for and threatens the trust we have built in the renter community.
“From my point of view, many of the requests sought out by vocal minorities of the attendees were unreasonable, discriminatory, and very explicitly anti-tenant. Our laws in Seattle are created due to the unfortunate reality that individuals continue to experience discrimination and uninhabitable living conditions, and laws must be in place in order to protect them,” shares Anne Nylander, Be:Seattle board member and small landlord. She adds, “Landlording can be challenging, but I do not feel burdened or overwhelmed by the laws put in place to protect my community. Just like any other type of small business, I need to comply with the rules for the benefit and safety of all.”
Any repeal or modification of Seattle’s hard-earned tenant protections will further harm the people most at risk of eviction, displacement, and homelessness. Therefore, consider who is actually “drowning” in Seattle. Is it the small landlords who actually have enough income to make the choice to purchase investment property, are able to control their own rental prices, and cry crocodile tears as they continue to grow equity while other people pay their mortgages? Or is it the renters who are struggling to stay housed who are at landlords’ mercy, and our unhoused neighbors who have already been forced from their homes and are suffering in the elements as they are cruelly swept out of sight?
The crisis of housing injustice and homelessness demands that we center the needs of those most impacted and work toward solutions that prioritize their well-being, rather than catering to the interests of a privileged few.
We encourage Seattle tenants to get involved in one of our upcoming workshops, and we are here to help you build tenant power with your neighbors!
The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.
The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.
Kate Rubin is the organizing director/co-executive director of Be:Seattle.
📸 Featured Image: Photo by sommart sombutwanitkul/Shutterstock.com
Before you move on to the next story … The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!