King County takes renters’ side

Renters in King County are expected to have a stronger voice in affordable-housing issues and protection from landlords’ actions following the County Council approval Nov. 12 of the King County Renters Commission.

The seven-member commission will advise the council and the county executive on issues and policies impacting renters in unincorporated King County. The move is part of legislation aimed at bolstering tenant protections and improving access to affordable homes.

Nearly half of all households in King County are rentals, making rent-related issues central for many of the county’s 2 million residents. According to a news account in the Auburn Reporter, about half of the 132,000 single-person households in the county, excluding Seattle, are renters, and 26,500 are low to moderate income residents in need of housing assistance. Many are seniors.

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, county officials said.

The commission is tied to efforts to make it illegal for landlords to remove tenants from a property, reduce services or increase obligations without going through a legal process. Landlords also would be barred from retaliating against tenants for reporting housing violations to the department of Local Services.

“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 Councilman Larry Gossett, who was the prime sponsor of the ordinance.