NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2022

Residents of Bellevue support changing city codes to provide more protection to renters

Peo­ple liv­ing in King Coun­ty’s sec­ond largest city would like to see local laws changed to help peo­ple who rent stay in their homes and main­tain bet­ter rela­tion­ships with their land­lords, a sur­vey recent­ly con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and the Belle­vue Hous­ing Research Coali­tion has found.

Aver­age sup­port for six ideas we asked about totaled 70.5%, or more than sev­en in ten Belle­vue res­i­dents. Aver­age oppo­si­tion totaled a mere 22.5%. That’s strik­ing, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that most Belle­vue res­i­dents we sur­veyed are home­own­ers (a major­i­ty of 53% own their own home with­in the city lim­its). It’s also evi­dence that Belle­vue is a city where peo­ple real­ly do care about each other.

The Belle­vue Hous­ing Research Coali­tion — a project of NPI, Com­plete Streets Belle­vue, the Sight­line Insti­tuteEast­side For All, and the Hous­ing Devel­op­ment Con­sor­tium (HDC) — set out this past sum­mer to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how peo­ple in Belle­vue feel about the local hous­ing mar­ket and pro­pos­als being stud­ied by city staff and the Belle­vue City Coun­cil to make it eas­i­er for peo­ple in Washington’s fifth largest city to find attain­able and afford­able homes.

We released our ini­tial find­ings on Sep­tem­ber 12th and a sec­ond set of find­ings at the end of the month. On Octo­ber 3rd, we released a third set of find­ings.

Today, we’re pleased to be able to share even more great data from our poll.

Here’s the ten­ant pro­tec­tion ques­tion we asked and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION: Please indi­cate whether you sup­port or oppose each of the fol­low­ing ideas for pro­tect­ing ten­ants resid­ing in the City of Bellevue.

IDEAS & ANSWERS

Give land­lords the flex­i­bil­i­ty to alter due dates if the ten­ant can demon­strate that their pri­ma­ry source of income is a reg­u­lar, month­ly source of gov­ern­men­tal assis­tance that is not received until after the date rent is due in the rental agreement

Sup­port: 80%Oppose: 10%Not sure:
Strong­lySome­whatSome­whatStrong­ly10%
47%32%6%5%———

Require land­lords to give at least 180 days’ (6 months) writ­ten notice of any rent increas­es more than 10%

Sup­port: 78%Oppose: 19%Not sure:
Strong­lySome­whatSome­whatStrong­ly3%
60%18%11%8%———

Require land­lords to give at least 120 days’ (4 months) writ­ten notice of any rent increas­es more than 3%

Sup­port: 76%Oppose: 21%Not sure:
Strong­lySome­whatSome­whatStrong­ly3%
57%19%11%10%———

Lim­it move in fees to no more than one mon­th’s rent and allow renters to pay it in installments

Sup­port: 73%Oppose: 21%Not sure:
Strong­lySome­whatSome­whatStrong­ly6%
48%25%12%10%———

Lim­it late fees to no more than 1.5% of the month­ly rent

Sup­port: 65%Oppose: 25%Not sure:
Strong­lySome­whatSome­whatStrong­ly10%
46%19%10%15%———

Pro­hib­it land­lords from declin­ing ten­ants because they don’t have a Social Secu­ri­ty number

Sup­port: 51%Oppose: 39%Not sure:
Strong­lySome­whatSome­whatStrong­ly10%
33%18%12%27%———

Our hous­ing-focused sur­vey of 475 Belle­vue city res­i­dents was in the field from Mon­day, August 15th, through Fri­day, August 19th, 2022.

The poll was con­duct­ed entire­ly online for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and its part­ners by Change Research. It has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 5.2%.

Fol­low this link if you’re inter­est­ed in a detailed primer on the survey’s method­ol­o­gy along with infor­ma­tion about who took the poll.

As the find­ings above show, every idea has major­i­ty sup­port and all but one idea has sup­port of about two-thirds or more of respon­dents. Half of the ideas test­ed had the sup­port of three-fourths of the respon­dents. Those are huge margins.

Many of Belle­vue’s neigh­bors have adopt­ed these ideas into their local codes already. Red­mond has done it. Kirk­land has done it. Ken­more has done it.

Pro­tect­ing ten­ants is an action many res­i­dents empha­sized when we asked “What do you think the Belle­vue City Coun­cil should do to make hous­ing more afford­able?” ear­li­er in the sur­vey. Quite a few respon­dents answered that ques­tion by declar­ing that the city need­ed to bet­ter sup­port renters.

Although we did­n’t ask about rent con­trol in our ten­ant pro­tec­tion ideas ques­tion, it’s evi­dent that it is an idea that is on a lot of res­i­dents’ minds.

“Look into fair rental prices,” one down­town renter said.

“Low­er the rent,” said a Fac­to­ria renter.

“More rent con­trolled hous­ing, caps on how much land­lords can increase year over year,” said a Cougar Moun­tain / Lake­mont homeowner.

“Make rent afford­able by income lev­els,” said anoth­er Fac­to­ria renter.

“Prop­er­ties need to be required to offer more income lim­it­ed res­i­dences and for fam­i­lies,” said anoth­er down­town renter, who added: “Most apart­ment build­ing have only 2–3 income lim­it­ed apart­ments and they are usu­al­ly stu­dios. Noth­ing suit­able for sin­gle par­ent house­holds or fam­i­lies. Require more income lim­it­ed apart­ments and imple­ment a rent increase cap.”

Even Repub­li­can res­i­dents voiced such sentiments.

“Rent caps and charg­ing even more tax­es towards investors (silent)/owners of big rental prop­er­ties,” a Bri­dle Trails home­own­er who iden­ti­fies as a Strong Repub­li­can told us. “I’d rather not con­tin­u­ous­ly see mas­sive­ly over­priced hotel style rental prop­er­ties if it means some­one can live comfortably.”

A Lake Hills res­i­dent who also iden­ti­fies as Strong Repub­li­can and nei­ther rents nor owns was even more stri­dent: “Rent con­trol is the only option.”

“There should absolute­ly be rent con­trol,” yet anoth­er down­town renter told us. “A 100% increase in rent from one year to the next should be absolute­ly unac­cept­able. The increas­es should be capped at 15% or even 20% as a mar­ket. Any­thing above that is just fly by night numbers.”

It may not be fea­si­ble for the city to cap rents at this junc­ture, but it def­i­nite­ly could adopt the ideas that its neigh­bors have embraced. And it should. If Belle­vue is to be an inclu­sive city that’s open and wel­com­ing to peo­ple who aren’t high earn­ers, then it needs to have stronger ten­ant pro­tec­tion laws.

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One Comment

  1. I have been deal­ing with a non-pay­ing and non-lease com­pli­ant ten­ant fol­low­ing Wash­ing­ton State rules in an attempt to get him out. Your poll did­n’t address how ten­ants should be han­dled with above vio­la­tions. I have been try­ing to get him out of my prop­er­ty for 8 months w/o luck. Owes over $8,000. Wash­ing­ton State laws all favor the ten­ants at expense of landlord

    # by karen lighteldt :: October 30th, 2022 at 7:25 PM
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