King County renters will soon have a stronger voice with elected leaders and county departments. The King County Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance to establish a King County Renters’ Commission.
“As inequality grows in this region, it is the Council’s responsibility to ensure that renters’ rights are protected, and their voices are elevated,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, who was the prime sponsor of the ordinance. “The King County Renters’ Commission gives renters the vehicle to strengthen their role in unifying their voices to create and advocate for policies that will benefit renters, especially those in the unincorporated areas of King County.”
The ordinance will set up a seven-member Renters’ Commission that would advise the council and the executive on issues and policies impacting renters in unincorporated King County. Councilmembers Larry Gossett and Jeanne Kohl-Welles sponsored the measure as part of a suite of legislation to bolster tenant protections and improve access to affordable housing, primarily in unincorporated areas of King County.
With nearly half of all households in King County renting their homes, rental issues are top of mind for many of the county’s 2 million residents. Additionally, 72 percent of African American households are renters, compared to 38 percent of white households, and renter households have significantly lower median household income than homeowners in King County.
“This commission will bring a much-needed fresh perspective to our policy making decisions regarding tenants’ rights and regulations that impact renters,” Kohl-Welles said. “As we move forward as a government and representative body of the people of this County, it is imperative that we continue to bring new voices to the table – especially those voices that have traditionally been left out of the process.”
The seven appointed members will represent a variety of backgrounds and perspectives including historically underrepresented groups.
Similar to the City of Seattle’s renters’ commission, established in 2017, the county Renters’ Commission will monitor enforcement of existing laws, look for opportunities to strengthen and improve those laws or advise creation of new ones. The group will also develop an annual report that includes recommendations on improving affordability with a focus on unincorporated parts of the county.
The council recently approved legislation that would create a strategy to develop and retain affordable housing in Skyway and White Center. A committee is still considering other actions that would clarify county code on when and how landlords can evict tenants as well as set up a pilot program to help low-income renters when they are displaced by rent hikes in Skyway and White Center.