Tenants rights counselor Julissa Sanchez read from her phone at the Cancel the Rent Rally at Othello Park on the afternoon of Saturday, June 5 . She said it would be easier to read without her sunglasses on, because if she took them off, the crowd of a few dozen would see her smeared makeup. Sanchez had been crying.
“The eviction moratorium is great — it has prevented unjust evictions …” Sanchez said. “… but it definitely did not prevent the thousands of thousands of dollars of rental debt that our people are in.”
Washington’s statewide eviction moratorium expires on June 30, leaving a large number of low-income and vulnerable residents at risk of eviction, even as they struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
State and local governments stepped in to prevent evictions by passing new renters’ rights bills while the pandemic raged through Washington. Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into rental assistance programs, largely from the massive federal government spending plan passed under the Trump administration.
The American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March under the Biden administration, will push those numbers higher.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
COVID-19 Webinar & Testing Locations
Six Months After the COVID Vaccine Webinar, May 27 — With full reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic just weeks away, a group of experts will discuss the State’s next steps and how Washington state can return to a medical world better and more equitable than the old normal.
Dr. Ben Danielson, University of Washington School of Medicine
Dr. Gretchen LaSalle, American Academy of Family Physicians Vaccine Science Fellow
Dr. Larry Corey, Fred Hutch President and Director Emeritus
“The experts will share an update on state vaccination rates, their learnings from the last six months and their outlook for what WA residents can expect moving forward. More information on the webinar can be found here. This event will offer live Spanish and ASL interpretation.”
(This article originally appeared in Real Change and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
“I used to live in those apartments,” Dee Powers, a 38-year-old Seattleite, said wistfully, “but I got priced out.” Standing in Seattle’s Occidental Park, coffee in hand, Powers stared at the distinctive white point of Smith Tower where across the street rests the old apartment Powers called home for five years.
The burst of the housing bubble in 2008 allowed Powers to rent a downtown apartment for $650 a month, but in 2015 they came home to a 60-day notice and a warning of a 40% rent increase. Since then, Powers has called a 40-foot RV home.
On April 13, five vehicle residents gathered at an action meeting in Occidental Park to share their unique car-living experiences in a city with a checkered past. All of the residents, including Powers, have either lived or are currently roaming Seattle’s streets in vehicles.
On Wednesday, Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales proposed legislation to close a legal loophole that allows landlords to evict tenants without providing a justification.
The legislation, which Morales is calling the first in a series of “Tenants’ Bill of Rights” legislation, would bar landlords from evicting tenants without giving a reason and would automatically convert all fixed-term leases (those that last for a specific period, such as six months or a year) into month-to-month leases once they expire.
(This article was originally published on Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and has been reprinted with permission.)
The Seattle City Council unanimously approved “right to counsel” legislation Monday that will entitle residential tenants facing eviction to an attorney at no cost.
The vote on this legislation, sponsored by District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant, was originally scheduled for two weeks ago but was delayed via Council vote to sort out possible legal concerns. The original bill could have faced a lawsuit since it looked to give everyone the right to legal counsel regardless of income. Washington’s State constitution prohibits cities from giving money to people “except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm.”
In an online press briefing on Thursday, March 18, Gov. Jay Inslee announced vaccine eligibility for roughly 2 million more Washingtonians through the next two tiers of eligibility, debuted a new vaccine locator tool for obtaining appointments, and outlined more flexible guidelines on visitations for residents and visitors to long-term care facilities who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition to opening new vaccine eligibility, Inslee also announced that he is extending the State’s eviction moratorium through June 30 and extending the utility shutoff moratorium through July 31. This follows an announcement on Monday by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan extending the City’s eviction moratorium through June 30.
(This article was originally published by PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Renters across Washington state have existed in a kind of financial and legal limbo since mid-March, when Governor Jay Inslee issued the first statewide eviction moratorium, declaring that the temporary measure would “help reduce economic hardship and related life, health, and safety risks to those members of our workforce impacted by layoffs and substantially reduced work hours or who are otherwise unable to pay rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At the time, no one knew how long the pandemic would continue or the impact it would have on the state and national economy. Since then, Inslee has extended the moratorium four more times, most recently in October, when he set a new expiration date of December 31.
But despite the moratorium, commonly referred to as an “eviction ban,” renters are still being evicted. Last month, nearly 40 people were evicted through the court system in King County, up from just eight in April. (We know the numbers for King County because they’re tracked by the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project, but a similar trend is almost certainly happening across the state). Added to that are an unknown number of people who are informally evicted through methods that, while not technically evictions, still have the same effect, their numbers never counted in the total of people forced to move — or made homeless — during a worldwide pandemic.
Washington State has reached a new milestone in the ongoing saga of the novel coronavirus pandemic. As of today, there have been 50,000 people who have tested positive for the virus, since the start of the pandemic.