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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Olympic stumble: Rent control bill passes House appropriations, fails in Senate appropriations


OLYMPIA — Legislation that would place a limit on raises in rent in Washington faces an uncertain future after a bill failed to advance in the Washington Senate.

A companion proposal, HB 2114, was approved by the House Appropriations Committee, but SB 5961 was rejected by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The House legislation was sponsored by Rep. Emily Alvarado (D-Seattle).

If it passed, HB 2114 would prohibit rent or fee increases during the first 12 months after a residence is rented, according to a copy of the bill on the House website. After that, rent and fee increases combined could not go up more than 7% in any 12-month period. Originally the bill would’ve limited rent increases to 5%.

The limitations would not apply to a public housing authority or public development authority, or a nonprofit agency where rents are regulated by other laws. A single family, owner-occupied residence renting one or two units would be exempt, and so would a duplex where the owner occupied one of the units as a principal residence.

The bill must be considered and approved by the entire House of Representatives by Feb. 13.

The Senate version of the bill died when Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) voted against it. The Senate version allowed for a 15% annual increase, and in a written statement Cleveland said she thought that was too much.

“Landlords would be able to increase rent by 15% year after year, well in excess of the typical economic growth of household salaries and means. The math is brutal,” Cleveland wrote in her statement.

In addition, Cleveland wrote that rent control doesn’t necessarily do what its proponents hope it will do. She cited a study that showed rent control in San Francisco reduced the amount of available rental housing and another that showed the benefits of rent control were concentrated in wealthier households. A third study concluded that rent control decreased affordability in the long run.

“None of this surprises me,” Cleveland wrote. “I vividly remember, as inflation rose in the 1970s, how the Nixon administration imposed price controls in an attempt to curb inflation, and the hardships it brought to my parents’ household and to our neighbors throughout the Vancouver area. However well-intentioned, the policy was a dismal failure that set back our economy and inflicted lasting economic harm on everyone we knew.”

Cleveland pointed to rent limits in Oregon and the Portland area, and said they had not worked as intended.

“Doesn’t it make sense to watch and learn from what’s happening in Oregon and Portland so we can make sure a similar policy here at home does not trigger unintended consequences?” she wrote.