Is it possible that one day evictions will be outlawed altogether? Roger Valdez makes an argument that Seattle, Washington is getting closer to a policy like that. They are considering banning evictions for part of the year, but Valdez anticipates it won’t stop there.
Article from Forbes on January 24, 2020
Seattle Eviction Ban: No Facts, No Data, Higher Rents, More Evictions
Roger Valdez, Contributor
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Last night, a committee of the Seattle City Council edged closer to passing a ban on evictions from November to April because it is cold outside during those months. At best, the effort is misdirected compassion and at worst it is an effort to sow chaos in the rental housing market in order to gain power for a narrow band of tenant activists and Seattle’s socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. More broadly and regardless of the motivation, the imposition of such a ban will fuel inflation in a housing market already struggling to produce housing because of excessive regulation.
New Seattle Councilmember Tammy Morales summed up the heedlessness of the Seattle City Council best. “I appreciate that there is more data that we need perhaps to understand the scope of what we’re talking about better to understand the cost of what other programming what other funding we might need to be thinking about,” she said.
But, she said, “In my mind it really doesn’t matter if we’re talking about eviction by private corporations or if we’re talking about evictions of people from public housing or public entity or some private building.” Morales said the only concern was to keep people safe from the trauma of eviction. Data and facts are less important than stopping something that, evidently, in mind of Seattle City Councilmembers is a force of nature, or a crime against a tenant. Forget about the fact that people who rent private property for thousands of years have generally been obligated to pay for the use of that private property.
Eviction is not a crime. Far from it. Eviction is the culmination of a costly effort undertaken through the court system by a property owner to remove a person holding private property for cause. The Seattle City Council’s behavior is fueled by politicians like Morales pandering to the left, free of the constraints of the facts or reality. If we don’t like something because it traumatizes someone, just ban it.
I heard from a tax credit attorney and insurance broker who explained the impact of these “compassionate” moves by the Council. I asked what would happen with housing subsidized with tax credits and private housing. The lawyer said, “The tax credit investors will not like it because it increases operating risk. But, remember, they will simply make developers escrow more money to cover the potential loss of revenue and protect their own yield. So it’s the developers who will need more financing sources to fund a larger operating deficit escrow, which means that private developers will have to come out of pocket or raise rents and that nonprofit developers (who don’t have anything at risk in these projects) will just ask the city and state to provide more subsidy”.
And the insurance broker said, “We will likely propose to our carriers that they increase rates in Seattle, at least for these months”. Who pays for those increases? Renters, of course.
Keep in mind what I’ve pointed out many times, there are only 1218 eviction filings recorded in 2017 out of 168,000 (or more) rental-housing units in Seattle. That’s a rate of .7 percent. And actual removals? About half that number, 558. But this is data, something that Morales says doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter that there are millions of dollars in a fund supported by the Seattle Mariners and managed by the local United Way, that could easily help the probably dozens of people who might be facing homelessness in December, for example.
Instead of addressing the underlying issues, poverty and inflation – when housing prices go up, people with less money suffer – the Council will try to protect the “victims” of eviction by causing rents to go up, then increase public spending when housing problems get worse. Rents will go up to support the measure that will help only a tiny fraction of people already dealing with rising rents. And when people paying rent see rents rise because of this ban, and wind up in eviction court because they can’t pay, the Council will suggest that with rising eviction numbers the solution is to, well, ban eviction altogether.
This is why we’re heading toward an eventual collapse of the business of rental housing. Socialists would cheer that on. But what the destruction of the rental housing market will do is accelerate scarcity, boost prices, and thus, cause even more trauma and suffering among the people that these Councilmember claim to care about. And when that suffering happens, it won’t be their own misguided and reckless policy they will blame, but greedy landlords and capitalism. Then they’ll ban those too.
For the past twenty-five years, I have been involved in public policy in the areas of education, health, and housing. Most recently I was housing director at a large regional non-profit, managing housing operations and development. At the same time, I have been an advocate for progressive supply side solutions to housing scarcity, and it is usually lack of housing that keeps cities expensive for poorer people and families. My background as a staff person for state and local elected officials, work in the non-profit sector, at a sustainability think tank, in political campaigns, and in the public health field have culminated in my work for Seattle For Growth, a housing and growth advocacy organization pushing for more housing supply for all levels of income in Seattle.