Seattle Renters Celebrate a Victory in the Fight for Housing Justice

Seattle City Council Today Passes a Bill that Reforms Move-in Fee Requirements

SEATTLE – Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!) today celebrates a victory with the community after the Seattle City Council votes to approve legislation that puts a cap on move-fees (security deposit, nonrefundable fees, and last month’s rent) when renters lease a unit. Council Bill 188817 also allows renters to pay these fees in installments in lieu of one large, up-front payment that’s currently required.

“This win today shows how important it is to organize around issues that will actually make a difference in the lives of low-income communities and communities of color in Seattle,”said Washington CAN! Seattle Organizer Xochitl Maykovich, “Seattle City Council has made a good step towards bringing housing justice to the city by passing this legislation.” A coalition of dozens of organizations, such as the Seattle Education Association, testified in support of this legislation.

Washington CAN! has organized around this issue throughout the past year. Washington CAN! released a report on Seattle’s housing crisis in July after conducting a survey with more than 300 Seattle renters. Survey respondents shared their personal experiences regarding economic evictions, substandard housing, and housing discrimination. Results showed 87% of respondents cited high move-in fees as the biggest barrier to finding affordable housing in Seattle.

Six councilmembers voted the bill out of committee last month after working on this legislation for several weeks. Councilmember Gonzalez introduced amendments at the committee hearing to add anti-retaliation measures to the legislation.

“This amended bill ensures that more low-income workers can live in the community where they work. Exorbitant move-in fees should not be the factor that determines whether you live in a home versus out on the street,”said Councilmember Lorena González. “I’d especially like to thank the organizers who helped amplify the voices of those who struggle to even apply for rental housing. This is a vital step toward increasing equity and affordability in Seattle.”

“This is a great win for people in Seattle who are struggling to move into housing,”said Washington CAN! member Gina Owens. “I’m happy the council recognized the disparity and passed a bill that will mean a lot to low-income people who just want a decent roof over their heads.”

Council Bill 118817 goes into effect early in 2017.

Housing Justice Now: Deposit Reform PASSES!

We’ve been pushing for months for the Seattle City Council to address the exorbitant move-in costs landlords charge tenants. In a housing report we published, high move-in costs were listed as the top barrier to finding affordable housing.

Monday, the Seattle City Council approved the bill that will put a cap on move-in fees and allow renters to pay installments. This is a huge win for Washington CAN! and for Seattle’s low-income communities and communities of color. We are so grateful for our members who stood in front of the council and put a face to this problem as they told their stories of rental struggles.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant championed this bill and her tireless efforts to push it through were admirable. The unanimous vote by council members sent a great message to the city that they recognize the housing crisis that’s happening now and they are here to do their part.

This bill goes into effect in 2017. We will have more details on how it will be enforced and what renters should know.

What the media is saying:

Seattle Times: City Council approves limits on renters’ move-in costs, taking aim at housing crisis

The Stranger: Your Next Landlord May Be Required to Offer You a Payment Plan for Deposits and Other Move-In Fees

Crosscut: Council makes life easier for renters, caps move-in costs

KOMO: Seattle approves plan to ease rental move-in fees

Seattle Weekly: Council to Vote on Limits to Renter Move-In Fees

My Northwest: Landlords lament: Council caps move-in costs for Seattle renters

Washington CAN! Endorses Jon Grant for Seattle City Council Position 8

 

Jon GrantSEATTLE – October 14, 2015 – Washington Community Action Network endorses Jon Grant for Seattle City Council, Position 8. Throughout his career working on housing issues, he has been a strong advocate for communities of color, low-income communities, and women. This week, Jon Grant has shown Seattle that he is willing to take a stand against corporate interests intent on buying elections.

“We are proud to endorse Jon Grant for Seattle City Council Position 8,” said Washington CAN! Political Director Mauricio Ayon. “While he was the executive director of the Tenant’s Union, we worked closely with him in the fight against the Seattle Housing Authority’s Stepping Forward proposal, which aimed to raise the rents of hundreds of low-income tenants in our city by 400%.”

As the executive director for the Tenants Union, Jon Grant was instrumental in strengthening tenant’s rights, such as the “Healthy Homes” Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance. He has a demonstrated record of success in creating policies that protect the rights of low income tenants,  and domestic violence survivors. His commitment pushing a principal-reduction program for people facing foreclosure is key to preventing displacement of women and people of color. His nuanced approach to low income housing policy will result in more affordability in our city.

“I believe Jon is the candidate who will best represent people like me. I am a tenant in low-income housing raising my three grandchildren,” said Washington CAN! member Gina Owens. “I need elected officials who will work to keep Seattle affordable for everyone, especially women and people of color.”

 

Washington CAN! Endorses Lisa Herbold for Seattle City Council’s First District Seat

lisa-herboldSEATTLE – October 13, 2015 – Washington Community Action Network (CAN!) has endorsed city council candidate Lisa Herbold in Seattle’s first district. Herbold has been a fierce advocate on the council regarding issues that advance racial and economic justice which are core elements of Washington CAN!’s mission.

“We are proud to endorse Lisa Herbold for city council district one,” said William Daley, the Interim Executive Director of Washington CAN!. “We’ve worked closely with Lisa to address important issues like the gentrification of communities of color in Seattle, winning paid sick leave for workers, and stopping the impact of medical debt on low-income residents in the city. She has been one of our closest allies in helping build a Seattle in which all can thrive.”

As an aide for Councilmember Nick Licata, Herbold helped lead us towards winning paid sick leave for workers. She was also instrumental in getting the city to address foreclosure crisis in low-income communities and communities of color by investing $150 thousand in outreach to struggling homeowners to connect them with the support they needed.

“I’m honored to receive Washington CAN!’s endorsement,” said Herbold. “I have been a strong supporter of Washington CAN!’s work to achieve racial, social, and economic justice in Seattle. I will continue this important work with communities and important allies like Washington CAN! if I’m elected.”

Seattle’s first district covers West Seattle.

“As a resident of the first district, I feel Lisa is the candidate who best represents my interests as a homeowner faced with foreclosure and a community member,” said Washington CAN! leader Joelle Craft. “She has fought hard for workers and has led the way on affordable housing.”

Underwater homeowners need the city council to help fund a program to reset mortgages

Community & Editorial

By Chettie McAfee / Guest Writer

Chettie Speaks at Council Mtg

Chettie McAfee address the Seattle City Council

I’m like millions of other people across the country: Since the housing bubble burst in 2008, I have been fighting to save my home from foreclosure. I bought my home to care for my aging mother. When she passed, I decided to open up my home to those in need. I housed female veterans who were often homeless and struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

When the recession hit, my home’s worth cratered, losing nearly $100,000 in value. To make matters worse, I also lost my job. I continued to make mortgage payments, but I was stuck in my home because my mortgage was deep underwater. I contacted my bank, JPMorgan Chase, before I was ever behind on my payments. I was told that in order to qualify for assistance, I had to be three months behind on my mortgage. So I took the advice of my banker and stopped paying my mortgage. When I applied for a loan modification, I was denied. Because I was delinquent, my home is now owned by the bank.

While the economy is rebounding and home values are rising in many neighborhoods, underwater mortgages and foreclosures still plague low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Since the collapse of the housing market, neighborhoods like Rainier Valley, South Park and Delridge have had more foreclosures than other parts of Seattle, and they still have the highest number of homes scheduled for auction.

Citywide, there are nearly 11,000 homeowners underwater on their mortgages and a disproportionate number of them are located in south-end neighborhoods. Many homeowners are so deeply underwater on their mortgages that they will never see positive equity in their homes.

Additionally, since being underwater is a leading indicator of foreclosure, many homeowners in these communities are still losing their homes. The only way the foreclosure crisis will end for communities of color is to reset the troubled mortgages to fair-market value.

For the past two years, homeowners facing foreclosure have organized in Seattle, eventually prompting the Seattle City Council to explore solutions that will achieve principal reduction for underwater homeowners. Councilmembers are now looking into programs in Oregon and Boston to see if such programs can be successful in Seattle.

Both the Oregon and Boston models have similar systems to help homeowners. First, homeowners are identified who are facing foreclosure but could afford to stay in their homes if they received principal reduction.

Then, either the government or approved private investors purchase the mortgage from the banks at near market value, and a new mortgage is issued to the homeowner at a slightly higher amount, with the difference helping to fund the costs of running the program. Eventually, the mortgages are sold to new private investors, revolving the funds and allowing more homeowners to be helped.

These programs have been so successful that virtually all homeowners in Oregon who received a principal reduction were able to stay in their homes. In contrast, the U.S. Treasury expects 40 percent of federal mortgage modifications to fail.

For homeowners like me, a program like this would mean permanently lower monthly mortgage payments, the ability to build equity and share in the economic growth of our city and an end to the distress we experience when we are on the precipice of homelessness.

The city council needs to do two things to make this happen. First, they need to fund the program. While the majority of the funds can come from either private partners or from the recent settlements between the U.S. Department of Justice and the nation’s largest banks, the city council should also provide funding to help start the program as soon as possible. Second, the city council needs to give banks reasons to participate in the program. By making the foreclosure process more difficult, the banks would be encouraged to participate in principal reduction.

We urge to the city council to get this principal reduction program off the ground as soon as possible.