... the tales of two sisters

Dana lives in Seattle, and Tracie lives in Germany. We are businesswomen, writers and humorists. We write about life, dating, and today's modern women.

Rent Control or Tenant Control?

When boarders become hoarders… Tales from the Crib.

May Day!  May Day!

I caused a Facebook frenzy last week with my posting about councilmember Kshama Sawant, and a petition to remove her from City Council.    After the response, I realized, I as a life-long landlord needed to further the discussion, especially from the perspective of a housing provider.

Today is May Day and Kshama Sawant has suggested employees take the day off to join her in protests , I pray for the safety of our city and would like to shed some light on a very distorted picture.

Landlords and often rightfully so, get a bad rap.  We’ve all witnessed or heard the stories of  greed, over-priced rents, with residents living in less than quality standard  housing with code violations.  This is an unfortunate reality for some.

I pride myself on being the antithesis of this stereotype.  Some of our properties were purchased in the early 195o’s and we have literally had residents reside in the same units for over fifty years.  Rents  are  several hundreds of dollars, even thousands below current market rates for these long-term residents.  I won’t deny, with the gentrification and renovations in the Central District, I am astounded at the exorbitant costs of housing and I know I’m leaving sizable capital on the table. But compassion and reasonability dictate that a single mom working a Safeway, who has resided with us for ten years cannot afford to pay more than $1100 a month – not the $2500 the open market dictates.

I was on a panel last week, speaking at The Horizon House with councilmember, Larry Gosset and other minorities from Keiro and Spruce Park discussing gentrification and the plight of black flight from the Central District.  The resounding call is for rent control, so I will weigh in.

My issue with rent control is that if we are forced to comply per a  survey of economists of the American Economic Association, fully 93 percent agreed that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing available.”

Per the National Multi-family Housing Council

“The Substantial Costs of Rent Control Fall Most Heavily on the Poor
These costs include (a) an often substantial drop in the quality of existing rental housing, and (b) substantially reduced access to new housing.

Poor families suffer a marked decline in existing housing as the quality of existing housing falls in response to reduced maintenance expenditures. The middle class can move out; for many reasons, poorer families lack this option.

Poor families also are at substantial disadvantages when it comes to finding new housing. In a tight market, there may be more people looking for housing than available rental units, thereby giving housing providers substantial discretion in choosing among competing potential consumers. In an unregulated market, this consumer selection process will be governed by the level of rents. However, by restricting rent levels rent control causes housing providers to turn to other factors, such as income and credit history, to choose among competing consumers. These factors tend to bias the selection process against low income families, particularly female- headed, single-parent households.”

With the above in mind, take into consideration, the hefty costs of  housing the mentally ill.  Please read, post, Can Somebody Help Me Here?  I shared the story of a resident who daily urinated in the hallway.  When I captured him on hidden camera, he confessed, he had a pee fetish.  Understand, this resident was fully screened, gainfully employed, and had good credit and rental history, but they do slip through the cracks.

Now, take into account, a current 76 year old hoarder and resident in a 35 unit building we own.  This is an actual photo of his living room, discovered when I had the Fire Department kick his door in, after I knocked and he said he had fallen.  In addition to the Pepsi bottles filled with urine, he refused to part with his prized albums and books, all sentimental treasures.  Rent Control or Tenant Control?  As I go through the painful process of evicting, refurbishing, and finding medical treatment for this mentally unstable resident, I am reminded as a Landlord, we must wear many hats.  The lawyer, contractor, social worker, therapist and physician.

Rent Control – Tenant Control?  As a community, we need to support funding for homeless shelters and to get people from living under the freeways.  We cannot afford to drive by and pretend this pervasive issue does not exist and affect us all. We must each do our part and support Mary’ Place, the Union Gospel Mission, Plymouth Housing,  and all agencies that advocate a safe, and solid environment.

It takes a village.  So please, today demonstrate more than your marching skills and see where you might help.  I was raised with the understanding that renovation and restoration are contagious.  I for one embrace the cultural and vibrant renovations in our area. Although Paul G. Allen has taken substantial criticism for acquiring 23rd and Jackson and the renovation of Yesler Terrace, he has also committed 30 million to support the homeless.  This area which was shunned and redlined where we had to put pickets on banks for funding is thriving.  It’s our roots and history, so let’s preserve it and thrive together.

As I joked with Councilmember, Larry Gosset on the panel at Horizon House – we are endangered species- black families born, raised, and still living in the Central District.   Join us – we have work to do!


mr willis