News “Perhaps Unpleasant … Consequences”
posted by February 2 at 11:15 AMon
Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill, Wallingford, U-District) opposes the Seattle City Council on capping condo conversions.
As Erica summarized in her column this week, there’s a bill in Olympia—being pushed by City Council member Tom Rasmussen—that would regulate condo conversions. There were 2,352 condo conversions in Seattle in 2006—as opposed to 430 in 2004. And the average price of the new condos was $250,000. I don’t imagine 2,352 renters have that kind of cash.
A bill supported by Council Member Tom Rasmussen that would place restrictions on landlords who convert apartments into condos is moving smoothly through the state senate. The latest proposed changes would strengthen the bill by increasing relocation assistance for tenants (currently $500 throughout the state) to the equivalent of three or four months’ rent and by prohibiting landlords from starting interior construction until the last tenant is out.
Sounds like a cool bill. It’s being sponsored by Seattle-area Sens. Ken Jacobsen (D-46), Adam Kline (D-37), and Ed Murray (D-43).
Well, co-sponsors Murray and Kline, along with Seattle house members Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-11, S. Seattle), Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37, S. Seattle), and Rep. Phyllis Kenney (D-46, N. Seattle) want to add an amendment (being pushed by the Puget Sound Alliance of Senior Citizens, the Seattle Displacement Coalition, and the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness) that would make the bill even tougher on condo conversion. They want put a cap on conversions. It’s an interesting idea when something as disruptive as condo conversions hits a 450% increase over a two-year period. (Conversions also jumped 51 percent between ‘05 and ‘06.)
Rasmussen’s colleagues, Sally Clark and Nick Licata are also reportedly on board.
However, a couple of Seattle legislators are against the cap idea: Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36, Ballard, Queen Anne) and Rep. Pedersen.
Here’s a copy of an e-mail Pedersen sent out to advocates of the conversion cap earlier this week:
Thanks for your message and for taking the time to write to me about SB 5031 and the potential companion bill in the house. As a resident of Capitol Hill, I have heard about these problems from friends and constituents and am very interested in providing reasonable protections for tenants who find themselves in this position. I have reviewed SB 5031 and am supportive of the legislation in its current form. I’d be happy to be a co-sponsor of an equivalent bill in the House. I do not, however, support allowing local jurisdictions to impose moratoria on condo conversions. I suspect that local politics might cause that power to be exercised with unpredictable — and perhaps unpleasant — consequences on the housing market. So if you choose to proceed with a bill in the House that is similar to SB 5031, then you can count me as a supporter and I would be pleased to be a co-sponsor. If you decide to add the language you mention below, then I am not likely to support the legislation without an amendment to remove the language. Please keep me posted about how you plan to proceed — and please feel free to contact me regarding any other questions or comments you may have. Best wishes, Jamie
Displacement Coalition leader John Fox told me:
I’m hardpressed to understand what could be more unpleasant for the housing market than a net loss of 1500 rental housing units county wide in just ‘05, not even counting Seattle. Letting the market take its course has meant removing more rental units (via conversion and demolition) than we are producing. Where’s the trickle down in that? I’m hardpressed to understand what kind of rational “free market” argument you can make to justify allowing this to continue unabated.
And Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, the director of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, promptly sent a formal reply. I’ve linked it below.
Rep. Pedersen, I think you are right in saying there will be a consequnce on the housing market; however, you seem to be missing the point that the consequnce is not only in process but is causing a significant stress upon efforts to effect the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. The folks who are one step from homelessness have found their options fading day by day. Those buying into the massive number of condos are not vacating rentals or owned units that can accommodate the growing number of low-income tenants whose options are disappearing. I realize that you are new to the House. I also know that while in Seattle you had little-to-no contact with the process at work within the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. Our Task Force has been central to not only the development of the Ten Year Plan but also to helping (with many others) that Plan keep its focus. I'd strongly encourage that you be willing to engage in conversation that advances your awareness of the housing available (and not available) not only in Seattle but county wide. As I said, the consequences are already occurring. There is no magic bullet, especially from the Legislature. This will require local oversight, not only by City leadership (initially in Seattle, where the condo tsunami has first hit) but also via the advocacy and education that providers and advocates deliver. While it is somewhat good news that you unhesitantly support the two main changes, those changes, increasing relocation above $500 and extending the time to 120 days, are still mere bandaids on a system that needs far more attention. If you truly think the free market will suffice, which is what you seem to be suggesting, then there will be far more pain ahead for those unable to meet the costs of rental units. Feel free to be in touch. We will do our best to seek you out during upcoming visits to Olympia. As a reminder to you, Housing Advocacy Day is Feb. 1, and there will be some of your constituents seeking time with you. I wish you well in your freshman year. The Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett Director, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness