At Solid Ground, we understand that you if you want to end homelessness, you have to start by keeping people from losing their homes in the first place.
That’s why we’re joining the Stay Housed, Stay Healthy coalition in calling for an extension of state and local eviction moratoriums that have kept tens of thousands of people in Western Washington from losing their homes after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered business and cut off many renters from their only source of income. As the pandemic has stretched on, a staggering number of people have fallen behind on their rent – an estimated 86,500 in the Seattle metropolitan area, according to the U.S. Census – and many may face eviction when state and city moratoriums end on June 30.
As we know from the thousands of hours of tenant counseling we have provided to renters during the pandemic, if nothing is done, many of these tenants may be forced out of their homes and join the nearly 12,000 people already living in cars, tents and emergency shelters across King County, according to the last one-night count. We could end up with a new public health crises just as we’re getting COVID-19 under control.
We need more time
As we head toward an eviction crisis at an unprecedented scale, elected officials have moved quickly to pass legislation aimed at helping tenants stay in their homes and pay back their rental debt – which also helps landlords. At the heart of this effort is the Eviction Resolution Program, a multi-pronged approach that pairs millions of dollars in rental payment assistance with legal aid and mediation services aimed at helping landlords and tenants reach reasonable repayment plans that both sides can agree to.
But this entire process and its many requirements are almost completely new and being built basically from scratch. On top of that, many renters and landlords aren’t yet aware of these new programs and don’t know how to access them. When Solid Ground began offering free webinars with information about the Eviction Resolution Program early this month, we were quickly overwhelmed with demand and had to add new dates and increase the number of people who could attend each session.
We simply need more time to ensure the Eviction Resolution Program is fully set up and positioned to prevent an avalanche of evictions from crushing our region’s economic recovery and increasing exponentially the scale of our region’s homelessness crisis.
That’s why Stay Housed, Stay Healthy, an alliance of more than 50 community organizations in Western Washington, is calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to extend the state’s eviction moratorium beyond the arbitrary date of June 30 so these new programs can be fully implemented and prepared for the flood of renters who will be seeking assistance. Stay Housed, Stay Healthy has successfully lobbied Seattle, Kirkland and Kenmore to extend local moratoriums until Sept. 30, but renters elsewhere in King County and Washington state remain at risk of facing eviction in less than two weeks. We believe all renters deserve these protections, regardless of which side of the city line they live on.
We need more equitable housing policy
But even that’s not enough, because we know that the pandemic has only exacerbated a longstanding power imbalance in housing law that favors landlords and puts renters at a disadvantage, particularly for communities of color that are more likely to face discriminatory practices. That’s why Stay Housed, Stay Healthy is pushing for permanent protections that will help improve housing stability and dismantle practices that have harmed communities of color and families living on low incomes.
Stay Housed, Stay Healthy is calling for:
- Stronger Just Cause protections: Renters may not own the property they live in, but it’s their home nonetheless and they should be able to trust that they won’t be forced out of it without good reason. But in Seattle, if you’re on a fixed-term lease, your landlord could kick you out at the end your lease for any reason at all – including in retaliation for requesting legally required repairs. We want to make sure that all renters are protected from discriminatory and retaliatory eviction regardless of the kind of lease they have, which is why we applaud the Seattle City Council for passing a measure earlier this month that will close this loophole.
- Cap move-in fees: For people living on low incomes, a major barrier to securing rental housing is the expense of move-in fees, which can include first and last month’s rent plus a deposit – easily totaling thousands of dollars. These high costs make it even harder for people to move from homelessness to rental housing, and can force renters to stay in unsafe and inadequate housing. Seattle already has a cap on move-fees, but we believe renters elsewhere in King County deserve the same protections.
- Additional protections: There are many other measures that could make rental housing more accessible and stable in King County, but only some cities have adopted them. These including requiring several month’s notice for significant rent increases; prohibiting rent hikes in unsafe and unhealthy housing; allowing renters to adjust the date their rent is due if they live on a fixed income; and prohibiting landlords from using credit scores and Social Security Numbers for pre-rental screening.
Keeping people safe and housed is one of the most important things we can do to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Solid Ground knows that we cannot let a premature end to the eviction moratorium result in a wave of evictions that will exacerbate our region’s ongoing homelessness crisis. But we know it is not enough to just go back to “normal.” We need to take the lessons we learned from the pandemic – namely, how precarious housing stability is for so many King County tenants – and make the changes that will help to help balance the power between tenants and landlords.
Below are some actions you can take to put pressure on Gov. Inslee to extend the eviction moratorium:
- Leave a voicemail for Gov. Inslee: Use this link and script to leave a voicemail for Gov. Inslee urging him to extend the statewide eviction moratorium.
- Send a letter to Gov. Inslee: Use this link to write a personalized email to Gov. Inslee telling him to extend the statewide eviction moratorium.
- Social Media: Here is a sample tweet you can use. If you decide to post on Twitter, be sure to tag @GovInslee and use the hashtag #JuneTooSoon and #EvictionMoratorium.
- Fill out this form to generate a social media image that you can use across platforms