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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 24, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 12
Seattle City Council approves first Renters' Commission in US
Section One
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Seattle City Council approves first Renters' Commission in US

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a unanimous March 20 vote, the Seattle City Council created a Seattle Renters' Commission to represent a historically neglected interest group.

About 54% of households in the city are occupied by renters, according to the ordinance's prime sponsor, City Councilmember Tim Burgess. The commission will provide them with a vehicle to advise the mayor and city council about legal protections for renters, and also related topics like transportation, public health and safety, parks, and open space.

'This was truly a grassroots effort, that started up on Capitol Hill and will now benefit the entire city of Seattle,' Burgess said.

'We just want to give renters a formal voice here at City Hall&Renters need landlords and landlords need renters, so if this commission can help bridge that relationship, then that will be a positive move for our city.'

'In my district alone, we now have 49% renters and 51% homeowners, and I believe that those people should have a voice,' bill co-sponsor Debora Juarez said. 'It's important that renters are recognized and are engaged in the city process and certainly in the decisions.'

The commission will have 15 members - six appointed by the mayor, six by the city council, two by the commission itself, and one young adult member from the YMCA's Get Engaged Program.

The ordinance requires inclusion of 'historically underrepresented groups such as low-income renters, LGBTQ renters, immigrant renters, renters with felony records, those paying rent with assistance, and renters who have experienced homelessness.'

The ordinance also calls for representation of different geographic areas.

Applications and appointments are expected to begin in April, with the commission having its initial meeting early this summer. The City's Department of Neighborhoods will provide staff for the commission.

Capitol Hill Community Council President Zachary DeWolf spoke in favor of the measure.

'After 91 years of the same old, tired, harmful, and unjust argument, treating us renters as second to homeowners, today's vote and hopeful victory fully affirms [that] your life, our lives as renters, and our voice matters,' DeWolf said. 'Today is a big win for equity and inclusion, and I continue to be proud to live in this great city.'

Members of the Capitol Hill Renter Initiative, which pushed for the measure, also testified in favor of the ordinance.

One member, Michael Bracy, has been a renter in Seattle for some 18 years. His rent has nearly tripled in that time, he said.

'Issues around rental properties and the concerns of their inhabitants inform and affect many of the greatest challenges in front of the council,' Bracy said. '&Renters in Seattle are first-hand witnesses to and participants in the day-to-day struggles and triumphs that make our city unique.'

Another Renter Initiative member, Alex Brennan, hoped the new commission would give renters a greater voice in city policy.

'At a time when so many renters are struggling to afford to live in Seattle, this is a critical step toward a more inclusive future,' Brennan said.

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