Imagine getting a notice in the mail that your rent, probably your largest monthly expense, is going up 10%, 20%, 50%, or even more, and you have just 60 days to figure out what to do.
Will you get a second job? Cancel your health insurance? Find a new place to live in one of the tightest rental markets in decades (currently a 3.6% vacancy rate)?
Well, this is happening to families here in the 21st District, just like it is all over the state of Washington, and across the country. Nationwide, rents have risen nearly 20% in the past year.
Legislation I introduced (HB1904) will give people just a little more time to make these life-changing decisions. Under this bill, a landlord would be asked to give a tenant written notification of six months (instead of the current two months for any increase) before any rent increase of 7.5% or higher.
This bill does NOT dictate rent, does NOT institute any type of rent control, and does NOT tell that a landlord cannot increase the rent-it just gives a much-needed time for people to sort things out.
The eviction moratorium that expired last year kept thousands of people from losing their housing during the pandemic. But what was not as widely reported was that tens of millions of dollars in state and federal rental relief for landlords was approved in Washington and is still being given directly to landlords today.
As our economy recovers, too many Washingtonians have still not felt the benefits. Servers at your favorite restaurant, home health-care workers, or older residents on fixed incomes are finding themselves more and more rent burdened, where they are paying more than 30% of their income on rent.
Even a modest rent increase could mean the difference between a rent payment, filling a prescription, or buying your kid a computer for school. A modest rent increase can also mean living on the streets. Hyperbole, you may ask? Without somewhere to move, it is reality. The number one reason for homelessness is simply the lack of affordable housing.
When I think of our first rental home, a tiny two-bedroom near the university, I remember the rent was just low enough that we could pay it along with one car payment, and the rest of our bills each month. The current rate for that place would be $2,000 or more, and a potential rent increase of $200, $400, or even $1,000 would not have been manageable for us.
We are in the middle of a housing crisis. You can see it in the encampments along the highway, long lines at food banks, and increasing homelessness in our schools.
While HB1904 is not a silver bullet answer – there isn’t one – this simple idea of giving someone adequate time to respond to a sudden and significant economic burden is fair, and will help our neighbors.