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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

As Usual, Props to Rep. Eric Pettigrew. And Surprise, Surprise: Props to Chopp!

posted by on January 16 at 17:01 PM

I’m in the habit of finding fault with state house Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43, Seattle), so let me take this opportunity to throw some flowers at him.

Given a clusterfuck of forces (the subprime crisis, the pending recession, and condo conversions), housing has emerged as a front-and-center issue for voters this year. And Speaker Chopp has made it clear he wants to take action.

While Governor Gregoire has proposed upping the Housing Trust Fund from $130 million to $180 million this session (a whopping nearly-40 percent increase), Chopp is getting kudos from low-income housing advocates for leading the fight to increase the fund to $230 million—a manna-from-heaven—76 percent increase.

Given that the word from Democrats is “no budget increases” this election-year session, if Speaker Chopp is in earnest about making this happen (and makes it happen), he’ll deserve high praise come March when thing wrap up here.

Meanwhile, housing and civil rights activists owe thanks to Slog-fave Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37, South Seattle) who’s bringing a bill to a vote on the house floor this Friday that will prevent landlords from discriminating against Section 8 tenants (i.e., not renting to them.) The practice—often a cover for racism—is illegal in Seattle, but it’s a problem in south King County and the rest of the state where it’s a-okay.

Section 8 vouchers work like this: Low-income renters who qualify pay 30 percent of their income on rent and the vouchers cover the difference in the total.

The Pettigrew bill passed the house last year, but got killed in the senate by some crummy amendments that caused the sponsors to drop the whole thing.

Another important housing bill coming up for a house vote—one that did not pass the house last year, is legislation that would prevent zoning regulations from dictating types of tenants. The bill is aimed at zoning law that exists in Tacoma, for example, that uses the law—typically about number of units, size, business, etc.—to prevent landlords from renting to what’s known as “service-enriched housing”—housing for victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, the formerly homeless, people with mental-health issues, people with chemical-dependancy problems, and sex offenders.

This seems pretty unconstitutional to me, but it’s going on in Tacoma. Downtown planners intent on upgrading downtown have zoned out the property owner’s right to rent to people with disabilities, for example. (There are already municipal rules about sex-offender housing—distance from schools, etc.—but zoning laws are intended to define types of housing, not types of people.)

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeannie Dareille (D-27, Tacoma).

RSS icon Comments


"zoning laws are intended to define types of housing, not types of people"

Yeah, right. People in the burbs want big lots, big houses, and big garages for the architectural aesthetic of it. They're not zoned for density or for retail because people in the burbs like open spaces for family living. They have nothing against people who can't afford those extra costs to meet their housing/ transportation needs. They love diversity...

Posted by Trevor | January 16, 2008 5:32 PM

@1, people in the burbs? People in the city love that shit too otherwise why would most of the be SFH?

Posted by Andrew | January 16, 2008 5:52 PM

You ever tried to buy a house in a gated community?


Diversity? Nuh uh.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 16, 2008 6:04 PM

I think the current rules are fine personally. As a property owner I want the right to decide who I do and don't rent to. Only apartment complexes should have anti discrimination policies. However "Anti discrimination" policies shouldn't be a cover for valid reasons to deny rental or evict.

It sounds all "touchy feely" to be in favor of an anti-discrimination law for Section 8 applicants. However Section 8 applicants come in all kinds of flavors, many of whom ruin the living environment for those around them. Many need a helping hand and a way to be integrated into a community, however others manipulate the system, cause vandalism, don't care about themselves or their "home", and destroy the hard work of a landlord who tries making their rental property a decent place to live.

There is always another side of the story, and people who are trying to own a rental property to get ahead in the "game" have to deal with putting up with all the bullshit and baggage that a section 8 tenant brings with them.

The issue makes great political fodder, and sounds like a winner for a politician, at the expense of those who actually have to maintain the properties.

Just sayin...

Posted by Reality Check | January 16, 2008 6:40 PM

@Reality Check: Not sure if you're trying to be misleading or if you're misled yourself, but but you're entirely misrepresenting the impact of the the Section 8 bill. No landlord would be required to rent to anybody -- the bill would just say that a landlord can't discriminate based on Section 8 or any other lawful source of income. A landlord could (and would be wise to) still do credit checks, reference checks, etc., etc., and would be 100% protected if they choose not to rent to a Section 8 tenant on some other basis like a bad reference or the like. They just couldn't stereotype & discriminate and deny someone housing on that basis. This bill doesn't "force" a landlord to rent to anybody, any more than any other anti-racism laws "force" landlords to rent to any given applicant of color or the new gay-rights law "forces" employers to hire only gay people.

Also worth pointing to sloggers: although Rep. Pettigrew deserves thanks for working this bill, it's being driven by the Tenants Union of Washington State and other housing justice orgs. (See debate on MLK vs. Pres. Johnson for more info on the dynamic between community organizations and elected officials.)

Posted by Paulo Freire | January 17, 2008 9:04 AM

How are people using Section 8 ever going to get a leg up when people won't rent to them because of their biases? In my neighborhood, the beer bottles and noise are caused by full rent paying tenants, not people using section 8.

Posted by Marie Antionette | January 18, 2008 9:33 AM

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