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 Institute, Eastside 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.
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: Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 10% 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: Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 3% 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: Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 3% 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: Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 6% 48% 25% 12% 10% ———
Limit late fees to no more than 1.5% of the monthly rent
Support: 65% Oppose: 25% Not sure: Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 10% 46% 19% 10% 15% ———
Prohibit landlords from declining tenants because they don’t have a Social Security number
Support: 51% Oppose: 39% Not sure: Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 10% 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%.
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.
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.